Written by attorney Thomas William Hartmann

Unemployment Claims Rules in New Jersey

When an employer terminates an employee, the employee is not automatically eligible for unemployment benefits in New Jersey. If the employee is dismissed for some form of misconduct, New Jersey unemployment benefits may either be held up temporarily or unavailable indefinitely.

New Jersey unemployment rules identify three types of misconduct: simple, severe and gross.

Simple Misconduct. A simple misconduct finding for such things as insubordination, lateness or absences with no written warnings from the employer, could disqualify a person from unemployment benefits from the week of the termination and continue for seven weeks. After the seven weeks, absent another declination reason, benefits could begin. Severe Misconduct. For severe misconduct, the terminated employee is disqualified for benefits indefinitely until he works for a new employer for four (4) weeks, earns six (6) times the weekly benefit amount and is separated from the new job through no fault of his own. Severe misconduct could include: use of drugs or alcohol on the job, repeated violations of a company rule, repeated lateness or absences after receiving a written warning, destruction or theft of company property or misuse of benefits. , Gross Misconduct. An employee who is terminated for a reason that is considered a crime of the first, second, third or fourth degree under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, may be disqualified from collecting benefits indefinitely. This is a "gross misconduct" discharge. To remedy a disqualification for "gross misconduct," the employee must return to work for at least eight (8) weeks, earn ten (10) times the weekly benefit rate, and lose the subsequent job through no fault of his own. The new work must be employment covered under the unemployment compensation law.

No one should guess about whether a level of misconduct falls into a certain category. The New Jersey Department of Labor employs claims examiners for just this purpose. Both employers and employees can consult these examiners to assess the status of a termination. Also, if after a claim is formally filed and adjudicated and either the employer or the employee is dissatisfied with the result, New Jersey has an appeals process to either validate or overrule the original claims decision.

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