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Kokua Line: What counts as searching for ‘suitable work’ while claiming unemployment in Hawaii?

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Question: What does the DLIR consider a “suitable” job offer? If I am offered a job that pays way less than I used to make, do I have to take it? Also, what counts as a job contact? Is it only through HireNet?

Answer: Kokua Line has received numerous questions like yours since the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations announced Thursday that a subset of people claiming unemployment benefits in Hawaii soon must begin documenting job searches to remain eligible. The reinstated pre- pandemic requirement is expected to affect about 106,000 claimants, according to the state.

The answers generally are spelled out in state labor laws and regulations, particularly Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 5, Title 12, which you can read at uilaw.

Rest assured that Hawaii workers dislocated by the pandemic and subsequent government actions have some leeway to claim benefits while they seek suitable work. You shouldn’t have to immediately accept a much lower- paying job than the one you lost, and you can use various methods in addition to HireNet to find a new one.

Here is information from the administrative rules or from the DLIR’s websites.

>> Suitable work: “Suitable work means work in the individual’s usual occupation or work for which the individual is reasonably fitted.” In determining “fit,” the DLIR must consider the claimant’s prior earnings, training and experience; the length of their unemployment; the distance of available work from their home; the risk of a particular job to their health, safety and morals; and other factors. Read more in HAR Section 12-5-55.

>> Job search contacts: The DLIR lists examples of job-search contacts at The examples include registering for work on HireNet Hawaii or at a private employment placement agency; applying for work with employers by submitting resumes or interviewing; using employment resources at the American Job Center to identify potential job openings; attending job fairs, seminars or other workshops that provide instructions to boost your employability; or “conducting other work search activities that individuals in the same or similar occupation would engage in.”

So, to answer your question, the parameters for valid job searches are broad and include more than registering with HireNet Hawaii, a “one-stop” employment website affiliated with the state, where employers can search for job candidates. To register with HireNet Hawaii, visit

The revived job-search requirement takes effect May 30, for the week ending June 5. Affected claimants certifying a claim for that period will need to document that they’ve searched for at least three jobs that week.

“The reinstated job-search requirement applies to individuals who have lost their full-time jobs and are on regular unemployment or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Individuals who are still attached to their regular full-time employer, are members of a union that provides job placement serv­ices, or are receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits are not mandated by law to meet the job search requirement,” according to a news release from the governor’s office.

Q: I need my divorce decree to prove my name change to get my gold-star license. Can I get that from vital records?

A: No. For divorce records, contact the Circuit Court where the divorce was granted, according to Honolulu County’s Department of Customer Services. Only Hawaii birth, marriage and civil union records can be ordered from the state Department of Health’s vital records section.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email

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