Can I Collect Unemployment If I'm Fired?

© The Balance 2018

Unemployment benefits exist to help protect workers in case 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 can collect unemployment if you are fired from your job.

Termination at Will

Most employees are employed at will, meaning that the employment agreement can be terminated at any time by either party. 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 poor performance on the job or lack of skills, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits.

If you decide to quit your job, however, you are unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits, although there are some special, extenuating circumstances which may apply.

Fired for Cause

When you are terminated for cause or misconduct, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. 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.

In some states, being fired for misconduct bars you from receiving unemployment benefits permanently; in others, it only prevents you from receiving compensation for a limited period.

After Being Fired

Find out what your rights are when you are fired from your job. Your company may offer a severance package, and 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 right away.

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 in order for your application to be considered. They will help you claim unemployment benefits you are entitled to, as well as explain the amount and length of coverage you should expect to receive.

How Does Unemployment Work?

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- often speaking directly with an informed person to help clarify requirements and get you the answers you need.

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 your previous roles in terms of responsibilities and salary), your unemployment benefits can be terminated. As well, during the recent recession, many states changed their laws to prohibit receiving severance and unemployment benefits simultaneously.

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 your paperwork and 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.

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 any and all documentation for your claim, as you will need to represent yourself in most cases.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.