What to Expect When Filing for Unemployment Benefits STAFF PICK

Diana S. Brodman Summers

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Employment / Labor Attorney

Contributor Level 11

Posted almost 6 years ago. 29 helpful votes



Are You Unemployed?

In order to get unemployment benefits a person must be unemployed and not listed on the employer's roster. An employee who is given a severance agreement may be kept on the payroll until the severance amount agreed upon is paid out. Employers do this in order to legally take the severance amount out of payroll, to make sure taxes are taken out of the severance amount, OR as a help to the employee along with out-placement services. Upon termination you need to know your final date as an employee. Getting a severance amount DOES NOT disqualify an employee from getting unemployment benefits.


Are You Able and Willing to Look for Work?

In order to get unemployment benefits the employee must be able and willing to look for work. If the employee was terminated due to being unable to work due to an illness or injury, the employee may not be able to work. This is an issue that the employee and their doctor need to address. An employee must also be willing to look for work, so someone who wants to go back to school full-time, stay at home with the kids, start their own business, or just retire may not qualify for unemployment benefits.


Did You Agree to NOT Seek Unemployment Benefits?

Some employer's will make it part of the severance agreement that the employee WILL NOT apply for unemployment benefits. If an employee has signed a severance agreement with that clause and then applies for unemployment benefits they MAY void out the entire severance agreement.


Applying for Unemployment Benefits and Dealing with the Investigator

The easiest way to apply for unemployment benefits is on-line at your state's unemployment benefits website. You may also want to go to a local unemployment office to apply. Once your application is received you will meet or speak with an investigator who has been assigned to your case. You may meet / speak with this investigator 2 or 3 times. The investigator will contact you employer. In most states the employer can very easily try to deny your application. Yes, some employers will even lie about the reason that you are no longer working with that employer. Why? Because the majority of states use the amount of unemployment benefits paid out in a calculation to determine how much taxes/fees will be charged against the employer.


The Investigator Accepts Your Benefits Application

If the investigator accepts your unemployment benefits application make sure that you follow the instructions for reporting what you are doing to look for a job. Hang on to all the evidence about the employers you have contacted. Your former employer may protest the investigator's decision.


The Investigator Denies Your Benefits Application

If your investigator denies your unemployment benefits application you will be sent a written notice. That notice will contain the reason why your application was denied. In the majority of states there are 2 reasons: 1. Employee quit -- does have the exception for those who quit for "good cause". Depending on your state "good cause" can be due to medical reasons (need doctor's notes), due to sexual harassment that was reported but not resolved, or due to other serious issues at the work place. 2. Misconduct means that - the company had a rule that effected the bottom line - the employee was aware of the rule and knew of the consequences - the employee violated that rule once (for serious offenses one violation may cause termination) - if the employee was not terminated for the first violation they were warned that a second violation would cause termination -- the employee violates the rule a second time.


Do You Want an Appeal?

If your application is denied by the investigator or if your employer protests the investigator accepting your application, you will be asked if you want an appeal. Most states now use a telephone or conference call for the appeal. BE WARNED this is just as serious as any court appearance. The person running the appeal is an Administrative Law Judge. In the majority of states these appeals are run by standard court procedures using the rules of evidence. YOU MUST be available for this appeal or your case will be dismissed without being allowed to be revived. It is strongly urged that you have an attorney represent you in this legal proceeding because it is so very important. The appeal is the last opportunity you will have to make your case. If you forget something or do not have the proper evidence at the appeal you will be barred from presenting it later.


After the Appeal

After the appeal you will receive a decision from the judge. If you win, again follow instructions for reporting your contacts with other employers. Keep all evidence because even if you win your employer may be able to fight the decision. If you lose you can fight the decision. The fight of an appeal's decision is a legal brief to the Board of Review. Some states call this a Commission or Unemployment Benefits Board. The evidence to this group is the transcript of your appeal PLUS a legal brief. Losses at this level can go into a civil court.

Additional Resources

Each state has information regarding their unemployment benefits and how to apply for the benefits on the internet. Begin by looking at the website for your state.

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