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Unemployment denied? Here’s what you should know

Why you may not qualify for benefits and how to appeal

Was your application for unemployment denied? There may be legitimate reason why you don’t qualify for this benefit. But if you believe you’ve been unfairly denied, you can appeal.

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What is unemployment insurance?

Unemployment insurance provides a temporary income for people who have lost their job through no fault of their own. These payments are funded by payroll taxes that employers pay into state unemployment funds.

Reasons unemployment benefits may be denied

Being unemployed does not necessarily give anyone the automatic right to receive unemployment compensation. You must meet certain requirements, or else unemployment may be denied. You may be ineligible for unemployment if any of the following apply to you:

  • You quit your job on your own and without good cause. Each state defines good cause differently, but situations like intolerable working conditions or needing to flee a domestic abuse situation are commonly considered good cause.

  • You didn’t meet the minimum length of employment required, often 3 months.

  • You didn’t earn the minimum amount required to qualify. Each state determines minimum earnings necessary to qualify, usually basing it on a certain number of months within the past year (called the base period).

  • You were fired for cause.

Self-employed people, including freelancers and contract workers, also don’t typically qualify for unemployment.

Your unemployment must also be considered temporary in order for you to collect benefits. This means you must be looking for a new job. If you stop looking, the state can decide you no longer qualify and deny you any further benefits.

You may also be denied unemployment benefits due to an error:

  • You didn’t complete the application correctly.
  • Your employer misreported your income or the facts of your termination.
  • The unemployment agency simply made a mistake.

You always have the right to challenge a denial.

Appealing an unemployment denial

Each state has its own process for appealing denials. Your denial notice may include instructions and a form for you to use. If it doesn’t, contact your state’s unemployment office to find out what to do.

Make sure you also make note of the deadline to appeal. It can be fairly short, often less than 30 days.

After filing your appeal you’ll have a hearing. This is where you can present evidence to support your claim that you are eligible for unemployment benefits. Your employer may also present its own evidence to show that you don’t qualify.

The evidence you need depends on the reason you were denied but may include:

  • Bank statements showing your direct deposits.
  • Documents showing your start and end dates of employment.
  • Documentation showing you quit due to harassment that did not stop.

You are allowed to bring witnesses to testify in your behalf as well. This can be especially useful if you quit due to something like unsafe work conditions or harassment. You are also allowed to have a lawyer with you if you wish.

If you win, your employer is entitled to appeal that decision. You’ll receive your benefits while your employer’s appeal is ongoing.

If you are denied again at the hearing, some states allow you to request a second review. If not you can appeal in court.

Eligibility requirements for unemployment and reasons for denial can get confusing. If you have any questions it can be helpful to talk with an employment lawyer who specializes in unemployment issues.

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