Employment Law -- Employee
Drawing unemployment benefits while working in Alabama is called an overpayment of benefits. This occurs when you are paid unemployment benefits and the state later determines you did not qualify to receive them for reasons such as:
In some cases, you may be able to repay the benefits or have them waived. However if you fraudulently received the unemployment benefits while working, you may be facing a criminal charge and consider consulting with an experienced attorney to help you work through this legal issue.
Like other states, Alabama has a number of ways to detect overpayments of unemployment benefits or fraud. Even if you were legitimately eligible for unemployment, if you continue to draw unemployment insurance benefits once you are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits, issues will arise. Drawing unemployment benefits while working may be detected through a fraud protection program such as:
If the state determines you receive benefits you do not qualify for based on their eligibility requirements, you will receive a Notice of Determination of Overpayment. This notice states the amount of unqualified state unemployment benefits you received with an explanation of the reason behind the overpayment.
After you are notified of the overpayment of benefits, you have the option to voluntarily pay back the state. The Alabama Department of Labor allows payments to be made online or by mail via money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or certified check.
If you cannot afford to pay the amount back in full, the Alabama Department of Labor allows you to contact the Benefit Control Section to arrange a repayment agreement, which must be in writing. Or so long as the overpayment was not the result of fraud, by law the state may offset your weekly benefit payment until the overpaid amount is repaid.
If you received unemployment benefits while working through no fault of your own, you may request your overpayment be waived by the Alabama Department of Labor’s Waiver Committee.
In cases of fraud, the state may deduct funds from your state or federal tax refund to repay the unqualified benefit you received.
If the state discovers you are still receiving unemployment benefits while working, you may be charged with the criminal offense of fraud. Even receiving as little as one week of extra benefits you did not qualify for can constitute willfully defrauding the state.
Under the Unemployment Insurance Law, anyone fraudulently claiming unemployment benefits is guilty of a misdemeanor, whether the benefit or payment is received or not. Each week claimed is a separate criminal offense.
The total amount of benefits you fraudulently received are added up to an aggregate amount which determines the degree of the charge you are facing.
If convicted, the state requires you to pay restitution to the Department of Labor instead of the criminal penalty of fines, with the minimum amount being the amount of benefits you fraudulently obtained.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, those applying for unemployment benefits in Alabama may qualify for programs such as:
To qualify for unemployment benefits in Alabama, you must be out of work through no fault of your own and the requirement still rings true during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you might qualify for unemployment benefits through someCOVID-19 related circumstances such as:
Each claim is reviewed by the CARES Act guidelines to determine eligibility and any criteria or exceptions that may apply.
Alabama has seen a significant increase in unemployment claims since the pandemic, triggering more fraud detection audits to ensure benefits are going to those who truly qualify. The state is considering those who quit their jobs to try to receive unemployment benefits or extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits as fraud.