If you suddenly find yourself out of work either due to a lay-off, a termination, or because you quit, you may not know what your rights are or where to turn to find out if you qualify for unemployment benefits. An employment attorney with experience handling unemployment cases can advise you on what your next steps should be after losing your job. Not everyone who loses their job can collect unemployment benefits. If you quit your job just because you did not want to work anymore or did not like your boss, then you will most likely be unable to collect unemployment benefits, but if you were laid off or terminated, then you may qualify for what is called Unemployment Insurance, the name of the agency that provides benefits differs from state to state. Or, if you quit your job due to hazardous working conditions, harassment, discrimination, certain wage and hour issues, or threats, then you may qualify for benefits.
Unemployment benefits are intended to provide temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers who meet the requirements of state law. Each state has its own unemployment insurance program with guidelines established by federal law. Eligibility for unemployment compensation, benefit amounts, and the length of time benefits are available are determined by each state. Benefit funding is based solely on a tax imposed on employers. Your employment attorney will know what the requirements are for the state in which you live.
All states have certain eligibility requirements that must be met before collecting any money from the state such as:
- You must have earned a certain amount for a certain period of time prior to leaving the job
- You must register with your unemployment office
- You must be available to work
- You must actively seek work while you are unemployed
Unemployment agencies perform what are called “audits,” which means they will check on you to make sure you are following all of the unemployment guidelines. If it is discovered that you are not actively looking for work or that you are turning down jobs that are offered to you, your benefits will likely stop. If it is discovered that you are working and collecting unemployment benefits beyond the allowed amount, then, in addition to not following the guidelines, you are committing a crime. It is fraudulent to collect unemployment benefits if you are working and making more money than your benefits package allows.
If you are wrongfully denied benefits, or if your employer has contested your unemployment claim, then it is best to seek the assistance of an employment lawyer. Your attorney will work with you and the system to make sure you get the benefits to which you are entitled while you look for a new job.