Losing your job can be one of the most stressful ordeals to go through. And unfortunately, a decent number of us have experienced it over the last few years with the fluctuating unemployment rates the U.S. has been experiencing since 2020.
Unemployment benefits can make all the difference in easing the difficulties that come with temporary job loss. However, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements 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.
Even though specificities vary, the overall requirements for eligibility for unemployment compensation can be summed up as 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 not a similarly clear-cut answer for fired employees.
Does Being Fired Disqualify You From Receiving Unemployment?
Depending on the circumstances and context 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 of your own. This phrase is mainly interpreted by employment law 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, company 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 eligibility requirements to receive unemployment outlined on their 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 of Your Own
The first eligibility requirement to receive unemployment, as previously stated, is that fired employees are let go through no fault of their own. Another way this can be described is losing your job through external factors beyond your control.
Some examples of employment loss outside of your control 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 of time. The requirements on the amount of time, or sometimes hours, worked are set according to state’s 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 a minimum of wages earned to collect unemployment compensation. The expected amount of wages earned will differ depending on where you are applying 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 not adequate to make an employee ineligible to collect unemployment.
Very serious misconduct is necessary to make an employee ineligible for assistance. Generally speaking, this could look like 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.
If none of these apply to you, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Exceptions to the Rules
As with most things, there are exceptions to the rules for unemployment eligibility for outstanding circumstances and employer contest. Some of the 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 taken into account and they have the right to contest a claim that they think is inaccurate and should not have been approved. When you make a claim for 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 major 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 important to note that proving constructive discharge for unemployment work can be incredibly difficult. Doing so might require an employment attorney with 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 will need to provide clear documentation surrounding your claim to have ample evidence to back up your qualification.
Expectations for Recipients of Benefits
If you do begin receiving unemployment benefits, it is crucial to understand exactly what is expected of you as a recipient of temporary government assistance. Collecting unemployment comes with certain conditions, the most critical being you must be actively searching for new employment while you receive payments.
State agencies can request proof of your job search at any time while you claim unemployment benefits. It is also expected that you do not turn 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 actively seeking one.
Getting Back on Your Feet Again
Unemployment benefits can be a huge help when you have lost your job, but it doesn’t erase all 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.
When you are short on essential bills, it might be tempting to rely on credit cards or apply for online fast cash loans. Continue to make wise choices in your finances and use your benefits as strategically as you can so you can keep your credit in good shape until you find a new job.