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Your Rights Regarding Unemployment Compensation

Under certain circumstances, when you lose your job, you can seek benefits, known as unemployment compensation, for a specific period of time. These benefits are funded by payments that your employer makes. The funds are collected at the federal level, but are dispersed to the states, which administer their own programs, with payouts varying from state to state.

Eligibility for Unemployment Compensation

Though the specific rules vary from state to state, as a general rule, to qualify to receive benefits, you must leave your employment through no fault of your own. If you are terminated for misconduct, your employer may challenge your right to receive benefits. Your ability to collect unemployment will typically depend on why you were terminated. If your employer was merely experiencing financial problems, you will likely be able to recover compensation. If you were terminated for misconduct, your eligibility will generally depend on the seriousness of the infraction. Actions involving fraud, embezzlement or misuse/misappropriation of company property will probably exclude you from coverage, but minor or unintentional infractions will likely not be dispositive.

Likewise, if you voluntarily resign, you may face difficulties obtaining compensation. Most states, however, recognize that there may be circumstances where employees have voluntarily quit because of untenable conditions at work. You may be able to get unemployment compensation if you can show that you voluntarily left because of:

  • Unsafe working conditions
  • Discrimination, including harassment (sexual or otherwise)
  • Threats of termination
  • A substantial reduction in hours or pay

Filing a Claim for Benefits

In every state, your initial application for benefits is filed through a state agency. The agency will make the initial determination of eligibility. Based on that determination, either you or your employer may file a dispute. The agency may resolve the dispute without a hearing, or may convene a hearing with an agency referee, where either party can bring in witnesses, and introduce evidence. The referee will then make a ruling on eligibility. Either party can appeal the ruling to an administrative agency.

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