Employment Law -- Employee

Can You Collect Unemployment If You Quit or Get Fired?

Losing a job is always stressful, but luckily there are state benefits to help you get back on your feet.

You are generally able to collect unemployment if you were fired or let go from a company. Even if the firing was because of negative circumstances, you might still be eligible to collect unemployment checks.

However, if you quit your job, the situation can be more complicated.

Rules for Unemployment After Quitting

A good rule of thumb is to ask friends or family if they would have quit in the same situation. Leaving because you wanted more money isn't usually a good enough reason to quit if you are going to need unemployment benefits.

You can still get benefits if you can prove:

  • A "reasonable person" would not have stayed at the job
  • Sexual harassment or discrimination
  • Reduction in hours or wages (must be reduced by a significant amount)
  • You are being threatened about being fired
  • Your job is unsafe
  • You are being harassed or abused because you are a whistleblower

Many attorneys offer a free phone consultation. You should explain the situation at work and ask them if you have a case. They can explain the likelihood of you winning your case and your various options for unemployment.

While it is advisable to consult with an attorney who can advise you on the potential pitfalls of unemployment applications, you may also file for unemployment benefits on your own. In your application, you may be afforded a chance to explain the situation. If you are denied, you do have the chance to appeal the denial and try again.

Rules for Unemployment After Being Fired

If you are fired for a serious issue at work, and you are the cause, then unemployment may be denied. Larger problems, called "infractions," can include treating other employees poorly, not doing your job, stealing, or breaking the law.

If you are let go or laid off for a general or neutral reason, then unemployment should be pretty straight forward for you. These situations might include:

  • Laying off employees because of a business reason
  • Being fired for small issues like being late or making a mistake

You will also quality for unemployment if:

  • Your manager or HR person is discriminating against you
  • Your company is punishing you for being a whistleblower

You have certain protections and if your rights are violated, then you can file suit. You will need to prove these claims. Your attorney will walk you through the process and gather the evidence needed to fight for your benefits.

What to Expect in the Unemployment Process

Let's say you just quit a job, or you were let go. If you suspect your case will face problems or you'll need to defend your rights to unemployment benefits, your first step should be talking to a lawyer.

If you are proceeding on your own, you may start by:

  • Going to your state's government website
  • Looking for an employment or unemployment section
  • Reading the requirements and rules for getting unemployment in your state to see if you qualify
  • Using the paper or online application to apply for benefits (this usually requires making an account so you can check back in on your request)
  • Answering the application honestly and fill out all the sections

Once your application is pending, it will be processed by the appropriate government agency. Staff will verify that your information is truthful and verify if you were laid off, fired, or quit. From there you will be approved or denied.

What To Do if Your Unemployment Application is Denied

If you feel that your employer lied or there was an error in your application, you can start an appeal. Sometimes the staff handling applications can make a mistake while verifying information, so you may need to call them first to discuss the problem.

If you decide to appeal a denial, you can expect to explain the situation in more detail and submit additional paperwork. If you do not have time to do this or avoid additional setbacks, you should consider consulting with an unemployment law attorney.

Your appeal will be reviewed along with any new evidence. A neutral third party will decide if the appeal is valid. If you or your ex-employer do not agree with the new decision, you can take it to the administrative agency or to your state's civil court. By the time it gets to court, a judge (and possibly a jury) will make the final decision.

This can be very expensive process. You should seek out professional opinions from an experienced attorney to make sure you have the best chance of success. Often it is less expensive and faster to accept the denial and job hunt quickly for something new. However, if an employer mistreated you or infringed on your rights, you may want to fight for what is just.

What Happens Once I Get My Unemployment Checks?

Unemployment will be a weekly check, in an amount that is a percentage of what you made at your previous job. The amount is calculated by your income and how long you worked there. Both of these factors apply according to how long you have paid into unemployment benefits.

Your regular taxes are always contributing to unemployment benefits for everyone in your state. There is a limit on the money you will receive, but most states cap it between $300-$600 per week. Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Washington are the only states that offer up to $800 in weekly benefits.

Most states have rules for anyone on unemployment, such as:

  • You must prove you are job hunting
  • You may be expected to accept a job offer in a certain time frame
  • You may need to work with a temp agency
  • There may be weekly interviews with a staff member to ensure you are job hunting

When to Take Your Case to a Lawyer

With so many attorneys offering a free phone call consultation, it is a good idea to run your situation past a professional to get their initial opinion and information about the costs of pursuing a claim. If you hire counsel, they will be able to advise you on accepting the denial, doing an appeal, or taking things to court.

You can always seek a second legal opinion as well. If you feel your job loss and unemployment denial were wrong, then you should start gathering knowledge on what you can do about it.