Whenever someone leaves their job, one of the first questions they think to ask is whether they are entitled to unemployment benefits. The answer is, it depends. Unemployment benefits serve as a vital wage replacement when someone loses their job through no fault of their own. Unfortunately, regardless of fault, benefits are only a fraction of an employee’s regular wage and max out at $450.00 per week. Still these benefits can be a life saver when the job search lasts longer than you had hoped.
There are 5 primary types of workers who may be eligible for unemployment benefits:
- Workers who have been laid off;
- Workers who have been downgraded to part time status;
- Workers who have quit on their own;
- Workers who have been fired; and
- Workers who were forced to quit;
Generally speaking, the first three categories are no-brainers. If you have been laid-off or had your hours cut for business reasons, you have crossed the threshold for eligibility. If you quit your job simply because you were discontent, you are ineligible for benefits. On the other hand, workers who have been fired from their jobs require a more in depth analysis. In a nutshell, if you were fired because you intentionally violated a known company policy, your application will be denied. However, if you were fired because you weren’t able to meet company performance standards, you are likely entitled to benefits. Finally, workers who were forced to quit due to unfair business practices (e.g. sexual harassment, workplace bullying, etc.) are probably eligible.
For these more complicated scenarios, once you apply for benefits, EDD will contact you for a phone interview to go over the details of your separation from employment. Practically speaking, most of the time when you receive this interview, your application will be denied but don’t stop here. Once you receive notice of your ineligibility, you will have the opportunity to start the appeal process. Don’t hesitate! Make sure you submit your appeal in a timely manner.
Outside of the reason for your separation, there are additional qualifications that any claimant must meet for eligibility. To be and remain eligible, you must:
- Have received enough wages during the base period to establish a claim.
- Be physically able to work.
- Be available for work.
- Be ready and willing to immediately accept work.
- Be actively looking for work.
You will have to certify that you meet this criteria on the continuing claim forms each reporting period. Even if you are initially denied, you must request and continue to submit these forms. If you don’t, when you win your appeal, your benefits will not be retroactive. Although the unemployment appeals process is intended to be rather painless, matters can get sticky when you have unusual circumstances and an employer who is contesting your benefits. If you have questions or concerns, seek the advice of trusted counsel.