Unemployment Benefits FAQs

Unemployment can be incredibly difficult to experience, especially if you don’t know which benefits you’re entitled to. It’s confusing, right?! People usually have a lot of the same questions about this, so we’ve laid out four FAQs on the topic below. Read on and good luck!

Can an employee who is laid-off, fired, or quits receive unemployment benefits?

For starters, an employee must be out of work through no fault of their own in order to receive unemployment benefits. For instance, employees will be eligible for benefits when their employer lays them off for economic reasons—such as a company closing or a need to downsize the workforce.

A fired employee may not be as lucky. In this exit scenario, employees cannot collect unemployment benefits when their employer fires them because of professional misconduct. Such work related misconduct may include a person who fails a drug or alcohol test, steals from the company, commits a crime while at work, fails to perform a material job duty, or violates safety rules. On the other hand, employees may still collect unemployment if their employer fires them because they weren’t the right fit for the job, either because they lacked the necessary skills or they did not perform up to company standards. An employee fired for intentionally acting against their employer’s best interests cannot collect unemployment benefits, whereas an employee fired for not fitting the company’s mold may collect unemployment benefits.

Generally, employees who quit their jobs cannot collect unemployment benefits unless California’s Employment Development Department (the “EDD”) determines they quit for “good cause.” An employee quits for “good cause” when an employer essentially “discharges” them without formally doing so (AKA pushing or forcing an employee out) or when an employee cannot work because of legitimate medical or family circumstances. Simply put, the EDD must decide the employee had a compelling reason to leave.

Are temporary employees eligible for unemployment benefits?

In order to qualify for benefits, an employee must meet requirements for time worked and wages earned during a “base period.” A “base period” is a one-year period consisting of the earlier four of the five complete calendar quarters before the employee filed for unemployment. An employee eligible for unemployment benefits as a temporary employee must also meet the following requirements during the base period:

  • Out of work due to no fault of his or her own
  • Physically able to work
  • Actively seeking work
  • Ready to accept work

How does the appeals process work for an employer contesting a claim?

After an employee files a claim for unemployment, the EDD will mail the employer a form Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed. An employer must then contest the employee’s receipt of unemployment benefits within 10 days.  The employer’s response should contain all material, relevant facts that demonstrate why the employee is ineligible for unemployment benefits. Often, an employer does this by claiming the employee was let go because of his or her own fault, thus not meeting the “through no fault of their own” requirement to receive benefits. Instead, the employer often argues that unemployment resulted from the employee’s misconduct.

Once an employer contests an employee’s claim for unemployment benefits, the EDD will gather all necessary information and provide a written decision. The employee’s claim or already existing payments will be denied if the EDD decides the employee is ineligible. The employee may reapply after he or she has resolved the issue leading to disqualification. On the other hand, if the EDD determines the employee is eligible an employer may protest this decision. In order to do so, the employer must mail the EDD an Appeals Form in which it explains its reason for the appeal.

An administrative law judge (“ALJ”) will then conduct a hearing in which both the employer and employee may put forth evidence and witnesses’ testimonies. Before the hearing, the EDD will allow both parties to review any documents within the file—including documents provided by both parties and documents gathered by the EDD representative overseeing the claim. After the hearing, the ALJ will issue its decision to the parties. If the employer disagrees with the ALJ’s decision, it can file a letter of appeal with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (CUIAB).

As an employer, is the appeals process worth it?

It depends. It’s important to think of the big picture when you decide whether or not to appeal. Think about the time and resources required. Think about your chances of winning the appeal.

You must also consider that an appeal may provoke the employee to sue you for wrongful termination. No matter how confident you may be that you would win a wrongful termination suit, it will still be a costly, unnerving process. Furthermore, the employer bears the burden of proving “misconduct” to reverse the award of benefits. In doing so, the employer may need to gather evidence and put on witnesses at the appeals hearing. Employers should be aware that any evidence presented or testimonies received at a hearing can be used for impeachment and other reasons at other proceedings.

On the other hand, if you’ve had several employees file for unemployment after they’ve left your workplace you may want to consider an appeal so your unemployment insurance (“UI”) rate does not increase. An employer’s UI rate is funded through its payroll taxes and may increase or decrease each year depending on the employer’s “experience rating.” The more former employees who’ve made claims for state unemployment benefits after leaving the employer’s workplace, the more likely the employer’s experience rating will increase.

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Disclaimer:  Although this article may be considered advertising under applicable law and ethical rules, the information in this article is presented for informational purposes only. Nothing should be taken as legal advice. Reading this article does not form an attorney-client relationship with us. An attorney-client relationship is formed through a signed engagement agreement. If you would like further information, wilkmazz pc would love to help you out! Feel free to reach out with any questions.

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