In 2022, 26% of unemployed people who had worked in the previous 12 months applied for unemployment insurance benefits since separating from their last job. Among those who had not applied for benefits, 55% did not apply because they thought they were ineligible.1
If you are unemployed and can’t pay bills, you may be curious about whether you can qualify to collect unemployment benefits. The specifics of collecting unemployment benefits vary from state to state, as unemployment claims are not handled by the federal government but rather by each state’s unemployment office and state law.
Even though specificities vary, the overall requirements for eligibility for unemployment compensation can be summed up to anyone who is out of work through no fault of their own. You are not eligible for unemployment if you quit your job, but there is no similarly clear-cut answer for fired employees.
Does Being a Fired Employee Stop You From Receiving Unemployment?
Depending on the circumstances surrounding the termination, you may or may not be eligible for unemployment benefits as a fired employee. The critical phrase central to an unemployment claim is that you are unemployed through no fault. Employment law mainly interprets this phrase as meaning that you are only considered ineligible for unemployment after being fired if you were terminated for willful misconduct.
Therefore, being fired does not automatically disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits. You could receive unemployment benefits if you were fired because of lack of work, cutbacks, or even poor performance, as long as you weren’t terminated for cause or misconduct.
Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?
Your state’s unemployment agency will have a more comprehensive list of who may be eligible for unemployment benefits on its website specific to state law. But there are commonalities you are likely to see across the board, regardless of state. You are most likely eligible to collect unemployment benefits if you:
|Terminated Through No Fault||You must have lost your job through circumstances beyond your control to qualify for unemployment benefits.|
|Requirements for Time Worked||To be eligible, you must have worked a certain minimum hours or weeks during a specified base period.|
|Requirements for Wages Earned||In addition to time worked, you must also have earned a minimum wage during your base period.|
Terminated Through No Fault of Your Own
The first eligibility requirement to receive benefits through unemployment, as previously stated, is that fired employees are let go through no fault of their own. Another way this can be described is by losing your job through external factors beyond your control. Some examples of include job layoffs, furloughs, a poor fit for the position, reduced hours, pay reduction, termination by the employer after a notice of resignation, etc.
Meet Requirements for Time Worked
To receive unemployment benefits, workers must meet the requirements of time worked during a base period. The conditions on the amount of time, or sometimes hours, worked are set according to state laws, meaning they can vary depending on where you are attempting to make an unemployment claim.
Meet Requirements for Wages Earned
Similar to time worked requirements, some states require minimum wages earned to collect unemployment compensation. The expected wages earned will differ depending on where you apply for unemployment insurance benefits.
Reasons for Ineligibility for Unemployment Insurance
There are several reasons why you might be ineligible for unemployment insurance. The most notable being voluntary resignation and termination for willful misconduct. However, it is essential to note that being fired for misconduct is not quite as broad as it might sound.
Someone being fired from a job because they weren’t the right fit for the position or couldn’t complete their work fast enough is inadequate to make an employee ineligible to collect unemployment.
Severe misconduct is necessary to make an employee ineligible for assistance. Generally speaking, this could include sexual harassment, safety violations, failing a drug or alcohol test, disclosing sensitive or confidential information, excessive unexcused absences, breaking company policy, or other serious conduct violations.
You may still be eligible for unemployment benefits if none of these apply to you.
Exceptions to the Rules
As with most things, there are exceptions to the rules for unemployment eligibility for outstanding circumstances and employer contests. Some requirements can be interpreted differently, so there are options for appealing a rejection and contesting a claim.
An Employer Contests a Claim
An employer’s interests are considered, and they have the right to contest a claim they think is inaccurate and should not have been approved. When you claim unemployment compensation, your previous employer will receive notice from your state’s unemployment agency.
This notice will include details surrounding your claim, which the employer can then decide to accept or contest. A lack of response to the notice of your claim usually constitutes acceptance of it, and you will be approved for unemployment benefits. However, if the employer believes you were fired for misconduct and should not qualify for unemployment, they can contest the claim with proper documentation.
Poor Workplace Environment
In most instances, voluntarily quitting your job makes you ineligible to claim unemployment benefits, but there is a significant exception to this requirement. Resigning due to a workplace environment so poor that continued employment is unbearable is considered ‘constructive discharge’ and could make you eligible to collect unemployment benefits.
However, it is essential to note that proving constructive discharge for unemployment work can be challenging. Doing so might require an employment attorney. An employment attorney will have the necessary skills to prove that further employment would have been untenable and resignation was necessary.
Filing an Appeal
If your unemployment claim was denied, but you believe this was a mistake, you have a right to file an appeal of the decision. You must provide clear documentation surrounding your claim to have ample evidence to support your appeal.
Expectations for Recipients of Benefits
If you do begin receiving unemployment benefits, it is crucial to understand precisely what is expected of you as a recipient of temporary government assistance. Collecting unemployment comes with certain conditions, the most critical being you must actively search for new employment while receiving payments.
State agencies can request proof of your job search at any time while you claim unemployment benefits. You are also expected to refrain from turning down any offers of suitable employment while receiving benefits. In short, you must be ready, willing, and able to take on a new job and be actively seeking one.
FAQs On Whether You May Be Eligible for Unemployment Benefits
In most states, the typical duration to receive unemployment benefits is up to 26 weeks. However, some states may offer extended benefits for additional weeks during high unemployment.
Yes, in many states, if you lose a part-time job, you may still qualify for benefits. However, the amount you receive may be less than full-time work.
Fired employees should apply for unemployment benefits as soon as they’re fired or laid off. Waiting can delay your benefits.
When you file for unemployment benefits, your former employer is typically notified. They can contest your claim if they believe you’re not entitled to benefits.
Yes, unemployment benefits are considered taxable income. You can choose to have taxes withheld from your unemployment checks or pay them later when you file your annual tax return.
Applying for unemployment does not directly affect your credit score.
Getting Back on Your Feet Again: Key Takeaways From CreditNinja
Unemployment benefits can be a huge help when you have lost your job and can’t pay bills, but it doesn’t erase the struggles you might face. Once you claim unemployment benefits, your financial strain will be eased. However, you will still likely have a considerably reduced income, making it challenging to cover your monthly expenses without a job.
When you are short on essential bills, relying on credit cards or applying for quick cash loans such as no credit check loans or payday loans might be tempting. At CreditNinja, we urge you to make wise financial choices and use your benefits strategically.