Unemployment Benefits: What if you’re Fired?

Can you get unemployment if you get fired? When an employee is fired or lets go, they may wonder if they can collect unemployment benefits. This article satisfies your curiosity about unemployment eligibility.

Unemployment Benefits: What if you're Fired?

In general, unemployment benefit programs provide temporary income to people who are out of work due to no fault of their own.

If someone was fired due to misconduct or violation of company policy, they might be ineligible to collect unemployment.

However, it’s not always cut and dry. Below, we outline how unemployment works for businesses, factors that impact eligibility for benefits and the rights of fired employees.

How does Unemployment Work?

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal-state program providing short-term cash benefits to jobless workers while they seek new employment.

State law decides who can receive benefits, how much and for how long, determined by looking at earnings and hours worked during a “base period.”

Eligible workers in most states will receive cash payments for up to 26 weeks while they look for work. However, nine states provide fewer than 26 weeks and two states provide more.

Extended benefits (EB) programs also exist in four states.

Businesses fund unemployment programs by paying taxes known as FUTA (Federal Unemployment Tax Act) and SUTA (State Unemployment Tax Act) taxes.

Unemployment claims have the potential to trigger increased unemployment insurance tax rates for business owners, so it’s important to understand how the system works in order to avoid costly mistakes.


Who is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

Not everyone who is unemployed is eligible for unemployment benefits. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of rules surrounding who can claim it, but in general, qualifying for unemployment is based on why the employee was let go.

To be eligible, an individual must be out of work for reasons beyond their control. Examples include layoffs, downsizing, lack of available work or furlough, such as due to COVID-19.

They must also meet work and wage requirements, plus any additional requirements mandated by their state.

If an employee quits a job by their own choice, they typically won’t receive unemployment benefits.

However, if employees can prove “good cause” to quit, such as unsafe working conditions or harassment, they may still be eligible.

March 2020’s CARES Act expanded “good cause” possibilities to include pandemic-related reasons, like the need to care for a family member who tested positive for COVID-19.

Those expanded benefits expired on September 6, 2021, yet there is always the possibility for more changes.

Terminated employees have certain rights, one of which is the right to receive unemployment compensation, if they qualify.

There are also several forms of misconduct that would exclude a fired employee from collecting unemployment benefits:

‣ Theft.

‣ Excessive unexcused absences.

‣ Failing a drug test or reporting to work intoxicated.

‣ Safety violations.

‣ Sexual harassment.

‣ Causing abuse or harm to other employees.

In some cases, intentional violation of company policy may also render an employee ineligible for benefits, but check with your state for specific rules.

Rights of Fired Employees

Private employment is “at will” in most cases, meaning that employers can terminate their employees at any time, and for any reason—as long as it’s not illegal, discriminatory or in violation of a contract.

However, terminated employees have certain rights, one of which is the right to receive unemployment compensation, if they qualify. Other rights of fired employees include:

‣ Receipt of their final paycheck.

‣ Paid severance, if the contract stipulates it.

‣ Continued health insurance coverage after separation from their employer via COBRA.

‣ Advance notification before the closing of a facility or a mass layoff.

Can an Employer Contest an Unemployment Claim?

As an employer, you have the right to contest an unemployment claim that you think is invalid or misleading. When a former employee makes a claim, you’ll receive a notice from the state or federal unemployment agency along with details surrounding the termination.

At this point, you can determine whether to accept or contest the claim. Keep in mind, an employee also has the right to fight the denial of an unemployment claim.

can you get unemployment if you get fired

9 Good Reasons to Call Off Work

A few reasons to call off work:

1. You’re Sick

Sure, when working in an office, sometimes a monster headache is enough of a good reason to call out of work—or at least enough to make you want to avoid the stress of a long commute.

But when you’re working from home and don’t have to face an hour in anxiety-inducing traffic, pushing through your headache may feel more doable.

But, there also might be times when you’re just too sick to leave your bed. If you’re feeling that bad, what you really need is rest—not a day of working from the bedroom.

To call in sick when working from home, let your manager know you’re feeling under the weather.

2. You have a Doctor’s Appointment

The beauty of remote work is that you can often schedule doctors’ appointments during the day and still make up work without missing a beat. That said, not all appointments can be finished in under an hour.

If you’re going to have a lengthier appointment or if the commute to and from the doctor’s office is far—it might be worth your while to call off work, at least for part of the day.

That way, you can focus on your health without worrying about catching up with work later.

3. You have a Family Emergency

Family emergencies can (and do) happen, ranging from having to rush your sick pooch to the vet to taking care of a suddenly incapacitated relative or dealing with a child’s injury.

When you need time to sort through any sort of family emergency and aren’t able to make up missed work hours, it’s time to call off working remotely as you figure out how to best care for yourself and your loved ones.

4. Someone Else is Sick

Taking care of kids (or a spouse or partner) when they’re sick can feel like a full-time job in and of itself.

Between heating up soup, checking for fever, and providing soothing back rubs, your day may drift away with not much time for work tasks.

If you find that you’ll be spending most of your day playing nurse, then you should call off working remotely for the entire day.

Not only do you want to be as present as you can for the person you’re taking care of, but it’s important to not overwhelm your own defenses by overworking. To stay healthy yourself, you need rest, too!

5. You Suffer a Loss

Having a loved one pass away is another one of the valid reasons to call out of work.

Although some people might find work to be a much-needed distraction during times of loss, there’s a good probability that your work performance will suffer.

It’s better to take the time you need to grieve before jumping back into your professional responsibilities.

6. You have a Household Emergency

Let’s say that you woke up with a flooded basement or a leaky roof.

If you have a household emergency that will require your time and attention while you call in contractors, then it’s best to call off from work for the time you’ll need to spend getting everything fixed.

That way, you can deal with your emergency with a clear head and prepare your home (and your mind!) to return to work with a clean slate once the repairs are made.

7. You Need a Mental Health Day

There are bound to be days when, despite your best efforts, you’re just not in the best mindset to work.

And with so many remote workers also having to juggle kids at home with online school and other new responsibilities amid the pandemic, people’s mental health is suffering.

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by the daily influx of challenges, or you just had a really, really rough night, there’s nothing wrong with taking a mental health day if you truly need it.

8. You’re Experiencing Bad Weather

Calling off work because of bad weather is something that in-office workers might legitimately have to do if they can’t physically get to the office.

What about if you’re working remotely, though—the weather shouldn’t affect your ability to work, right? Not necessarily.

If your area just experienced a severe snowstorm, for example, you might need to call off working remotely so you can plow your driveway or clear your sidewalks.

Or if strong winds and heavy storms whipped through your neighborhood, you might lose power or your internet connection and can’t work online.

If you can find somewhere else to set up shop, that’s great, but bad weather often affects businesses all around you, leaving you stuck at home. If that’s the case, taking a day off until things return to normal may be the best plan.

9. You’re Interviewing for Another Job

Job searching when you work remotely is definitely easier than if you were in a traditional workplace.

While you don’t have to worry about colleagues questioning why you’re suddenly wearing a suit (when you normally show up to work in jeans and a T-shirt), you might still have to call off work if you’re interviewing for another position.

You never know how long your interview might take or if your prospective boss might want you to interview with other team members on the spot.

To give yourself enough of a time cushion without worrying about your current boss needing something from you ASAP, it might be worth it to call off work instead.

Circumstances of Employment Termination

Unemployment benefits exist to help protect workers if they lose their job through no fault of their own, so they can make ends meet until they find a new position.

Depending on the circumstances and the state you worked in, you may be able to collect unemployment if you are fired from your job. Whether you can collect unemployment depends on the circumstances of why your employment was terminated.

1. Termination at Will

Most employees are employed at will, meaning that the employment agreement can be terminated at any time by either party.

One of the criteria for eligibility for collecting unemployment is becoming unemployed through no fault of your own.

This means that if you were fired because you weren’t a good fit for the job, your position was terminated because of company cutbacks, or for reasons like lack of skills, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If you decide to quit your job, you are unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits, although there are some special, extenuating circumstances that may apply. Eligibility will vary depending on the state where you reside.

2. Fired for Cause

When you are terminated for cause or misconduct, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Eligibility will depend on your state’s guidelines.

Misconduct includes stealing, lying, failing a drug or alcohol test, falsifying records, deliberately violating company policy or rules, sexual harassment, and other serious actions related to your employment.

Even conduct outside of the office, such as a problematic social media post on a personal account or committing a crime, can disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits. State laws regarding eligibility for unemployment vary.

Keep in mind that being terminated for cause isn’t the same as being fired for any cause. “Terminated for cause” refers to negative actions on the employee’s part that warrant repercussions.

Losing your job during a round of company-wide layoffs, for example, probably isn’t the same as being terminated for cause, even though the termination was technically “caused” by company-wide layoffs.

In some states, being fired for misconduct may bar you from receiving unemployment benefits permanently. In others, it may prevent you from receiving compensation for a limited period.

Under some circumstances, you may be eligible for benefits.

3. After Being Fired

Find out what your rights are when you are fired from your job. Your company may offer a severance package. You can also look into what other state programs you may qualify for to help your family while you look for work.

It’s a good idea to collect any documentation relating to your termination as well, and this is best done either before if you suspect that you are at risk of termination or immediately after you lose your job.

Emails, notes about meetings, phone messages, doctor’s notes, etc., can all act as supporting evidence you may need if your unemployment claim is denied.

If you have been fired from your job, and you are not sure whether you’re eligible for unemployment benefits, check with your state unemployment office.

In addition to verifying the cause of your termination, they can help to make sure you meet the minimum requirements for earnings and duration of employment for your application to be considered.

They will help you claim the unemployment benefits you are entitled to and explain the amount and length of coverage you should expect to receive.

After Being Fired

Steps to getting an Unemployment Benefit

Unemployment compensation receives the bulk of its funding through taxes paid by employers, and each state runs its own unemployment program.

States have autonomy regarding who can receive unemployment benefits, for how long, and the amount of compensation.

Although unemployment compensation can be confusing, your state’s unemployment website can help answer many of your questions.

For help in navigating the process, you can call your state’s unemployment office. You may be able to speak directly with an informed person who can help clarify requirements and get you the answers you need.

Applying for Unemployment Benefits

When you have been fired from a job, you can file online for unemployment. It’s a good idea to get the paperwork for your claim in order as soon as possible after you receive notice of your termination.

It can take time for your claim to be processed, and the sooner you file for benefits, the sooner a determination can be made as to your eligibility.

While you Receive Benefits

If you do meet all the various qualifications to receive unemployment, be aware that compensation comes with conditions.

While you are receiving unemployment, you must be actively seeking a new job—and states can request proof of your job search.

If you turn down a suitable position (that is, one that is reasonably on par with the responsibilities and salary of your previous roles), your unemployment benefits may be terminated.

How to File an Appeal

If your claim is denied by the state unemployment department or contested by your employer, you have the right to appeal the decision.

Make sure you collect all documentation related to your claim, so you have all the information you need to appeal the denial.

How to Calculate the Unemployment Rate

Knowing how to calculate the unemployment rate can give you a better grip on the state of the U.S. economy.

Learn how to use the unemployment rate formula, what the different categories of unemployment are, and about the surveys, the U.S. uses for their calculation.

Unemployment Rate Formula

The formula for unemployment rate is: Unemployment Rate = Number of Unemployed Persons / Labor Force. The labor force is the sum of unemployed and employed persons.

By dividing the number of individuals who are unemployed by the labor force, you’ll find the labor force participation rate or unemployment rate.

Here is each step broken down so that you can properly calculate the unemployment rate:

1. Divide the number of unemployed workers by the number of working and non-working individuals

For instance, if there are 4 million jobless Americans and 44 million Americans employed, simply divide 4 by 44 and you’ll wind up with a decimal of 09.

2. Multiply the resulting decimal number by 100 to calculate the unemployment rate.

Here, you simply shift the decimal two slots to the left, as 09% becomes 9%.

3. Subtract the employment rate from 100 to calculate the U.S. employment rate.

In this instance, 100 minus 9 equals 91, meaning 91% of Americans who can work have a job.

What Workforce Surveys are Used to Calculate Unemployment?

The U.S. jobless rate is also measured using two critical workforce surveys:

1. The Current Population Survey (CPS)

Otherwise known as the “household survey”, the Current Population Survey is an employment sample of 60,000 households.

2. The Current Employment Statistics Survey (CES)

Otherwise known as the U.S. payroll survey, the Current Employment Statistics Survey is measured based on a sample of 160,000 U.S. companies and government agencies that represent 400,000 individual employees.

What are the Different Unemployment Categories?

The BLS calculates the unemployment rate using three different types of jobless categories:

1. Cyclical Unemployment

This type of unemployment happens when the U.S. economy cannot provide enough jobs for every U.S. adults over the age of 16 who wants one.

2. Structural Unemployment

This type of unemployment happens when the U.S. jobs market can’t provide jobs for everyone who wants to work, because of what the BLS calls “mismatched” skill sets.

This is the time between employment when an unemployed individual is seeking a job or moving from one job to another.

3. Frictional Unemployment

Frictional Unemployment

Frequently Asked Questions

In the US, the general rule is that you are entitled to unemployment benefits unless you are fired for violating a reasonable rule of management that is uniformly enforced.

You apply for unemployment compensation.

If your employer feels you should not receive the compensation he can deny it, at which point you will have to appeal that and an arbiter from the state will hold a hearing in which you and the employer will both have input.

You can “ Apply “ for Unemployment whenever someone fires you. If you were stealing or doing something seriously wrong or improper, you will probably not receive compensation.

An employer can contest your claim once it is filed, and he has ten days to respond whether or not he agrees with the reason you told EDD as to why you are not working.

Yes. Just report the income when you submit your claim. It is ‘casual work’ income

Under the law of every state, employees are eligible for unemployment if they are out of work through no fault of their own. If you are fired for misconduct, you won’t be eligible for benefits.

However, if you are fired for simply being a poor fit or lacking the skills for the job, that’s not misconduct.

CSN Team.

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