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Employment Law -- Employee

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The Unemployment Process and Timeline

Unemployment compensation, also called unemployment insurance (U.I.), is a federal government program administered by the states in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor. It’s intended to provide qualified unemployed workers with financial and work search support.

Unemployment insurance benefits provide much-needed assistance when you lose a job or have your hours reduced by replacing some of your income. Unfortunately, that assistance does not start right away. It typically takes less than an hour to complete an unemployment application. However, the state can take one to three weeks, and sometimes more, to process your application. In addition, many states require you to wait a week before you can start receiving benefits. On top of that, appealing an unfavorable determination will add a month or more to your timeline.

Unemployment eligibility requirements vary by state. All states, however, follow the same general process for applying, certifying, and appealing unemployment claims. Refer to the F.A.Q.s on your state government website for additional information about how your area’s unemployment claims process works. Below are the steps you can expect to follow and the estimated time to complete each step.

Filing Your Claim: One Hour

States offer online services where you may file for unemployment, check your claim status, find your account number, file an appeal, and find a phone number to call to receive assistance. In most states, you must verify your identity before filing a new claim.

When you’re ready to fill out your application, expect to provide the following information:

  • Contact information such as an email address, your complete name, mailing address, and phone number.
  • Date of birth.
  • Your Social Securitynumber or Alien Registration Number if you are a non-U.S. citizen.
  • Driver’s license or state-issued I.D. card.
  • Name, address, and telephone number of all your employers for the last two years.
  • The start and end dates that you worked for each of the above employers.
  • The reason you separated from each employer.
  • Pay stubs for each employer.
  • Information about any income you are receiving, such as retirement income.
  • The amount of any pay other than regular wages, such as vacation pay or severance pay, you have or will receive from your current or most recent employer.
  • List of the other states where you physically worked in the past two years and the address of each employer in those states.
  • Recall date if you expect your employer to recall you to your job.
  • Union hiring hall information if you get work through a union.
  • Information about any Worker’s Compensation you have received.

The State Processes Your Claim: One Week

After submitting your claim, you will have to wait while the state processes your application to determine your eligibility and your weekly benefit amount (W.B.A.). Application review typically takes a week; however, the time varies depending on the state and the current unemployment level.

Generally, a claimant must be unemployed through no fault of their own, such as due to a layoff, to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Both full and part-time employees may be eligible.

The state bases your W.B.A. on your weekly wages during either a base period or an alternate base period. Typically, the base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. Most states offer claimants the option to have their W.B.A. loaded onto a debit card or deposited into their bank account via direct deposit.

Your state will also request information from your previous employers. How long it takes for your former employer to respond will impact your application’s processing time.

Once the state has finished processing your application, it will notify you by mail or through its online portal.

If you are eligible for benefits, you will need to familiarize yourself with your state’s requirements for receiving unemployment. At a minimum, you must perform weekly work search activities and file a weekly claim to receive your unemployment benefit payment. Some states will also require claimants to register with the state workforce center.

You can appeal the state’s decision if you are ineligible for benefits.

Appealing a Denial of Benefits: One to Eight Weeks

States give you the right to appeal a denial of eligibility on your initial claim. Many states also allow you to appeal your weekly benefit amount determination.

The amount of time you have to file an appeal varies by state. It ranges from ten calendar days of the mailing date of your determination letter, such as in Indiana and New Jersey, to 30 days, such as in Virginia.

Your former employer also has the right to appeal your determination. In this case, your state may require you to continue filing a weekly claim for your benefits.

Further Appeals and State Court: Months

If your initial appeal fails, you can continue to file appeals to different levels of review. How many levels of appeal are available depends on your state. Once you have exhausted your appeals in the state unemployment process, you can appeal to the state court system. You will likely need an attorney in the appeals process, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Receiving Unemployment Benefits: One to 26 Weeks

If the state approves you for unemployment benefits, you may have to skip your first-week payment, such as in Indiana and Virginia. That means you will not receive your first payment until your second week.

Benefits generally last up to 26 weeks (about six-and-a-half months) out of the benefit year or until you return to work. The duration of your benefits depends on your state and your specific circumstances.

Use your online account or speak with your state’s unemployment office to confirm how long you have benefits.

In most states, such as Maryland, you must submit a weekly unemployment claim to receive unemployment benefits. The weekly claim consists of answering questions that show you are available and looking for work. Most states require you to submit a list of your work search activities for that week. Be aware that disqualification from receiving U.I. benefits could result if you don’t accept an offer of suitable employment.

You may also be responsible for repaying any overpayments.

Extensions for Unemployment Benefits: Varies

The federal government may implement programs to extend unemployment benefits during times of high unemployment. How long the extension the claimant receives depends on the program. But, the normal extended benefits program lasts 13 weeks, with an additional seven weeks authorized if the unemployment rate reaches a preset threshold.

For example, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provided unemployment insurance benefits for up to 79 weeks for Americans who could not work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You should consult an attorney if you need help with the unemployment process in your state. An experienced attorney will be well-versed in the law and understand how to navigate the system more effectively and efficiently.

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