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Bob Ferguson

AGO 1960 No. 95 -
Attorney General John J. O'Connell


Where claimants are disqualified for refusal of suitable work, the disqualification period begins to run with respect to the day on which the disqualifying event took place.

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                                                                 January 12, 1960

Honorable Otto S. Johnson
Acting Commissioner
Employment Security Department
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                      Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 95

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you have requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Under § 1, chapter 321, Laws of 1959, (amending RCW 50.20.080) which prescribes a disqualification for claimant benefits under the Employment Security Act upon the happening of an event, does the disqualification period commence to run with respect to theday on which, or the calendar week in which the event occurs?

            We conclude that the disqualification period commences to run with respect to theday on which the disqualifying event took place.


            Prior to amendment, RCW 50.20.080 provided that:

            "An individual is disqualified for benefits, if the commissioner finds that he has failed without good cause, either to apply for available, suitable work when so directed by the employment office or the commissioner, or to accept suitable work when  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] offered him, or to return to his customary self-employment (if any) when so directed by the commissioner.  Such disqualification shall continue for the calendar week in which such failure occurred and for the five calendar weeks which immediately follow such week."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The legislature, by enactment of § 1, chapter 321, Laws of 1959, amended the last sentence of RCW 50.20.080, which now provides as follows:

            ". . . Such disqualification shall continue until he has obtained work and earned wages therefor of not less than his suspended weekly benefit amount in each of five weeks."  (Emphasis supplied)

            The question directly presented then is one of determining what the legislature intended by amending the latter portion of the statute in question.  In determining this intent, our supreme court, in the case of Lynch v. Department of Labor & Industries, 19 Wn. (2d) 802, 806, 145 P. (2d) 265 (1944), has stated that:

            "In the process of arriving at the intent of the legislative body, the first resort of the courts is to the context and subject matter of the legislation, because the intention of the lawmaker is to be deduced, if possible, from what it said.  Behrens v. Commercial Waterway Dist. No. 1, 107 Wash. 155, 181 Pac. 892, 185 Pac. 628;In re Sanborn, 159 Wash. 112, 292 Pac. 259."

            The pertinent rule is set forth in Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390, 399, 191 P. (2d) 858 (1948), to the effect that:

            "In construing statutes which re enact, with certain changes, or repeal other statutes, or which contain revisions or codification ofearlier laws, resort to repealed and superseded statutes may be had, and is of great importance in ascertaining the intention of the legislature, for, where a material change is made in the wording of a statute, a change in legislative purpose must be presumed.  In re Phillips' Estate, 193 Wash. 194, 74 P. (2d) 1015, and cases therein cited;Great Northern R. Co. v. Cohn, 3 Wn. (2d) 672, 101 P. (2d) 985;Longview Co. v. Lynn, 6 Wn. (2d) 507, 108 P. (2d) 365."  (Emphasis supplied)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The court went on to quote from 50 Am.Jur., Statutes, § 275, as follows (p. 400):

            "'In making material changes in the language of the statute, the legislature cannot be assumed to have regarded such changes as without significance, but must be assumed to have had a reasonable motive.  Where a statute is amended, it will not be presumed that the difference between the two statutes was due to oversight or inadvertence on the part of the legislature.  To the contrary,the presumption is that every amendment of a statute is made to effect some purpose, and effect must be given the amended law in a manner consistent with the amendment.  The general rule is that a change in phraseology indicates persuasively, and raises a presumption, that a departure from the old law was intended, and amendments are accordingly generally construed to effect a change, particularly where the wording of the statute is radically different..'"  (Emphasis supplied)

            Applying these rules to the amendatory statute in question, we find that there is no longer express mention that the disqualification shall continue for the "calendar week in which such failure occurred" but that the legislature expressly provided that the disqualification shall continue "until he has obtained work."  Hence, in the light of the foregoing rules we can only conclude that the disqualification period commences to run with respect to the day on which the disqualifying event took place.  The remainder of the amendatory provision requires that one must not only obtain work, as a condition precedent to being again qualified, but must also earn wages, of not less than his suspended weekly benefit amount, in each of five weeks.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General