Unemployment insurance is a government-sponsored program that provides financial assistance to qualified workers who lose their jobs.
The federal government has an unemployment insurance program, as do individual states. While every state has different rules and regulations for determining eligibility for unemployment insurance as well as different processes, there are some general guiding principles.
Here's an overview of how to apply for, and collect, unemployment insurance:
- File a claim. When you file your claim, it is necessary to provide supporting documentation like your last pay stubs, a Social Security card, and proof of your unemployment status.
- Wait for your eligibility determination. The unemployment agency will determine your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Benefit eligibility is typically determined by looking at the reasons why you are unemployed. In general, if you are fired for cause or voluntarily quit, you may not be eligible for benefits. On the other hand, if you are laid off, you could be eligible for assistance. Your former employer is usually given a copy of your application and may protest your eligibility for benefits. For example, an employer may point out that you quit your job.
- If rejected, appeal the decision. After the investigation, the agency will make a determination of your eligibility. If everyone is happy with the result, that is the end of the application process. However, if either party is not happy, either one can appeal the agency's decision. But there is usually a time limit on when appeals may be filed.
- Attend the appeals hearing. By the time you reach this step, you'll probably already be working with an employment attorney. An unemployment insurance hearing is similar to a court hearing where parties can present evidence and introduce witnesses. Hearings often revolve around arguments of eligibility. A hearing officer will issue another decision at this point.
- Appeal the appeal. Even if you lose your appeal hearing, that is not the final step. In most cases, you can appeal the hearing officer's decision to the next level of the administrative agency.
For more information, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Unemployment Insurance, available as a PDF that you can download for easy reference. You can also head over to FindLaw's Unemployment Benefits section to learn more.
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