Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: I have a new part-time job, and I've worked four hours a day for two days with no breaks. How many minutes am I entitled to for a break each day? -- Nonstop Work

 Dear Nonstop: Given your abbreviated schedule, you aren't entitled to any breaks by law. The only break that state labor law mandates is a lunch break, but that applies to employees who work more than six hours a day.

DEAR CARRIE: I work for a federal agency that wants to transfer me to a similar position in California. Because of my personal situation, I cannot accept the move and am thinking about opting for early retirement.

Would I be able to collect unemployment if I quit? I have been applying for jobs, but because of my age - 53 - I haven't been getting any positive results. But I do plan to try to continue working.

Also, the state Department of Labor website says that in some cases you can collect a pension and still be eligible for unemployment benefits. But how much you collects depends on how much your employer contributed toward your pension benefits. That is very unclear to me as I don't understand why my pension would affect my unemployment benefits.  -- Benefit Caveat 

DEAR BENEFIT: Whether or not you qualify for jobless benefits if you quit depends on the timing of your resignation.

If, for example, you leave three months before the agency forced you to make a move across country, that would be a voluntary departure that could disqualify you for benefits, said a state Labor Department spokeswoman.

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"The best advice is not to retire until being forced to move," she said.

You could well be eligible for unemployment benefits when you are forced into an unreasonable change in your commuting distance, and certainly a move to California would fall into that category, the spokeswoman said. But leaving before you have to would hurt your chances of collecting benefits.

As you indicated in your letter, your pension could affect how much you receive in jobless benefits. The benefit, which ranges up to $405 a week, is reduced if you meet the following criteria:

You are receiving a pension from an employer you worked for in your "base period," or the 52-week period leading up to the time when you apply for benefits; that work made you eligible for a pension or increased it, and you contributed less than 50 percent toward your pension.

And here's how the deductions would work based on what you did not contribute to your pension: If you didn't contribute, your benefit would be reduced by the weekly equivalent of your pension, according to the Labor Department's website. If that weekly amount is $300, then you would collect $105 in jobless benefits.


If you contributed less than 50 percent of the total value of your pension, the reduction is half of the weekly equivalent of your pension. So using the $300 pension example again, you would receive $405 minus $150, or $255.

And last, if you contributed 50 percent or more or rolled your pension over to a qualifying IRA account, you won't face a benefit reduction.

One of the main objectives of the unemployment benefits program is to provide a temporary and partial replacement of income. So when you have other income, the statutes take that into account.

And of course you have to be actively looking for work to continue to qualify for benefits, and you indicated you would be.