You can protect your unemployment benefits if you learn your rights before you quit or are fired. Companies have to pay more when their workers collect unemployment, so it is in your bossís interest to stop you.

One reason workers donít get unemployment checks is because they did something when they quit or were fired that makes them ineligible. The other reason that workers donít collect unemployment is that their boss made it harder to get their benefits and the worker just gave up.

Unemployment laws are different in every state. These is general information. Ask your state unemployment office specific questions.

  • Make sure that you can show that you told your boss what was happening. It’s better to tell the unemployment investigator that you called your boss to say that your child was sick rather than saying, "I didn’t bother, I knew he was going to fire me anyway."
  • Be sure to follow all of the unemployment office’s rules about reporting and looking for work.
  • File for unemployment, even if your boss tells you that you can't collect. Only the unemployment office can tell you whether you can collect -- your boss may be wrong.

If you are denied unemployment because your boss fights it, file an appeal. You can win an unemployment appeal. Your boss may just be hoping you will just give up and then their unemployment costs will be less. Some bosses fight every unemployment application – even when they know it's valid.

WHO IS COVERED?  Most workers (who work enough hours) are covered by unemployment, yet most don’t collect when they lose a job. Usually the state laws say that:

  1. You have to have worked at least 6 months in the past year and earned a minimum amount of money (which varies by state). If you are part-time, call the unemployment office to find out if you have earned enough credits -- don't assume that you can't collect.
  2. You have to be working legally in the U.S. or be a U.S. citizen.
  3. You have to be able to do your job if you are called back to work, or do a similar job. If you go to school for job training, you may be eligible for UI even though you are not looking for work. (If you aren’t able to do your job, you won’t be able to collect Unemployment -- you'll have to apply for Social Security Disability, temporary disability, or workers' compensation.)

NOT COVERED:

  • independent contractors (but if you think you may be misclassified as an independent contractor, contact the Unemployment Office to see if you can collect benefits)
  • workers who are employed by relatives (parents, husbands, wives, or children)
  • workers for religious organizations
  • workers on a small farms
  • workers who are paid only on commission (no wages)
  • workers who do occasional domestic or babysitting work
  • newspaper deliverers who are under 18 years old

REASONS FOR LEAVING YOUR JOB - Things that can disqualify you from getting unemployment:

  1. You quit your job or refused to take a similar job without a good reason.
  2. You were fired for repeated and deliberate misconduct. This is a common reason that workers are not eligible to receive unemployment. It’s usually because of being late a lot or absent without a good reason or breaking reasonable rules over and over. Usually, you are still eligible for unemployment if you did something pretty stupid, accidental, or careless (like breaking something or using bad judgment).
  3. Quit because of stress. If you say that you are quitting because of stress, you are admitting that you aren’t mentally able to perform your job. One of the requirements for collecting unemployment is that you are able to return to work.
  4. Going on strike or refusing to cross a picket line. Some states permit workers to collect unemployment if you are "locked out." If you and your co-workers are going on strike, ask your union about your eligibility. If you are going on a wildcat strike (you don’t have a union), call your state AFL-CIO office and ask for advice.