Can You File for Unemployment if You've Been Fired?
If you have ever been sacked from your job, after the initial shock wears off, one of the first questions you will likely ask yourself is, "How will I cope for money?"
Although it is good practice to have at least three months' salary set aside for emergencies, the reality is that most of us work hand to mouth.
Most people earn enough each month to cover their expenses, with little left to put into a savings pot.
The good news is that help is available from the state if you lose your job unexpectedly.
Let's look at the options and see if you can file for unemployment if you have been fired unexpectedly.
Various unemployment insurance programs operate across the US to provide financial support if you lose your job without due cause.
Each state has its variation of unemployment insurance (also known as 'unemployment compensation'), but they all follow the basis of federal law.
You can find your state's unemployment insurance office details via the Department of Labor.
Those eligible for unemployment support may receive benefits for up to 26 weeks per year. This is usually a percentage of your typical weekly wage.
In addition, extended benefits may be available for those who continue to be out of work beyond this timeframe.
To qualify for unemployment insurance, you must be able to prove that you are out of work through no fault of your own.
You must also be able to show that you've met the base 'work and wage' requirements.
This means that you have worked during a set period to confirm eligibility for state support.
There may be additional state requirements to confirm your eligibility for unemployment insurance. Therefore, we recommend contacting your local unemployment office to confirm the eligibility criteria.
There may be many reasons why you've lost your job. Perhaps the company was making cutbacks, or your role was made redundant due to an organizational restructure.
You can also be eligible for unemployment compensation if you were fired because the employer considered poor performance or a lack of skills as a reason for terminating your contract.
If the pandemic impacted your sector, you may also find that you are unemployed through no fault of your own.
One of the reasons why unemployment insurance is only available to those who have lost their job through no fault of their own is to prevent individuals from quitting their jobs and then relying on state support.
If you have been 'fired for cause,' it's unlikely you will be eligible for unemployment compensation.
This is because your firing may have been a direct consequence of your own actions. Perhaps you were accused of stealing or lying, or you knowingly violated a company policy.
You could have failed a drug or alcohol test, or caused issues with another staff member.
If you've been fired because of something you did or a form of misconduct, then not only could you be ineligible for unemployment insurance, but some states may choose to ban you from benefits permanently.
Some states may offer support if you quit your job as a result of negative working environments. For example, if you have evidence that you've tried to report an issue, but the employer did nothing to resolve the situation, then you could claim that you were forced to quit your job.
In this scenario, you may find that you are eligible for financial support.
You may be wondering where the money comes from for unemployment compensation. After all, if the state is paying you weekly benefits, where do they get their funds, and who pays for it all?
Employers have to pay a percentage of their employees' wages via the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA).
Each business needs to pay both federal and state unemployment taxes. This creates a pot of money that can be used to fund benefit contributions to those fired and who need to seek unemployment assistance.
If you are eligible for unemployment support, even if you've been fired, you can expect to receive a percentage of your weekly salary for up to 26 weeks.
Once you have been approved for unemployment support, you could receive your first benefit check in as little as two to three weeks.
However, your benefits will only be granted upon strict conditions.
You may need to check in with your unemployment insurance office every two weeks to confirm that you are still unemployed and actively looking for a job.
You cannot turn work down, even if you feel that the job is wrong for you and doesn't match your skills and experience. If you are offered a position and you say no, your unemployment benefits will immediately cease.
You should also be aware that you will be taxed on any benefits you receive. Therefore, you need to accurately report any unemployment benefits on your federal tax return.
The first place to look to confirm your eligibility is your local state unemployment insurance office.
Although unemployment is broadly a federal issue, each state runs its compensation schemes individually.
Each state may also have its own requirements, so they will confirm your eligibility criteria and set expectations for how much you could receive and how to apply for unemployment.
They may also direct you to training or education programs to improve your skills and help you gain employment elsewhere faster.
Once you've confirmed that you are eligible for unemployment, gather all of the information you need to submit your application.
Typically, most applications occur online, which is the fastest way. However, you could also apply over the phone or even through a mail-order form.
Your local unemployment office will have all of the necessary details, including options in other languages if needed.
The information you will likely need to support your application includes:
- Proof of identification
- Social security number
- Proof of address and your phone number
- Full details of your previous employment history, including names and contact details of line managers
- If possible, your previous employer registration number, which you may find on a copy of a previous payslip
- Bank account details
The more information you have available, the easier it will be to submit your application. As each state operates its own insurance schemes, the wait time may differ from state to state.
Some states may claim that you have to wait at least a week between being fired and submitting your application. As you speak to your local representative, they will explain any waiting periods.
You may feel that your application for state unemployment support is clear cut, especially if you were fired through no fault of your own.
However, each state has complete autonomy over its decision-making, so you may find that you are denied unemployment benefit due to a technicality.
If you think that you were unfairly rejected for financial assistance, you do have the right to appeal the decision.
The appeals process will vary from state to state, but typically, you can request a hearing where you can outline your appeal.
During this hearing, you may need to consider what evidence you have to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria. In addition, you may look to invite witnesses to speak on your behalf (such as a previous line manager who can verify that you were fired through no fault of your own).
You will likely have only 10–30 days to lodge your appeal, so time is of the essence.
If your appeal is successful, you will receive backdated benefits to account for missed weeks.
When you submit your application, your previous employer will be contacted to confirm whether you were fired due to no fault of your own.
If the employer disputes this and believes they had due cause to dismiss you, they could contest your unemployment claim. For example, perhaps they believed that you were a contractor rather than an employee, or they may dispute the employment dates you submitted as part of your application.
Suppose your previous employer contests your application for unemployment compensation. In that case, your state will appoint a third-party investigator who will question you and your employer to determine who is telling the truth.
The unemployment office will make the final decision as to whether you are entitled to any benefits.
If you've been fired through no fault of your own, it can take time to recover emotionally from the fallout and having to worry about financial matters will undoubtedly make a tricky time far worse.
There is no shame in seeking unemployment support; it is designed to be a safety net to support you as you look for another job. However, as time is of the utmost importance, it would help if you were ready to submit your application as quickly as possible so that your benefit checks can come through rapidly.
The eligibility criteria are broadly similar across the entire US. Typically, as long as you can show that you've worked for a while and it's not your fault you are unemployed, you will likely be accepted for unemployment benefits.
Suppose you are at fault, and you can understand the rationale behind the employer's decision to terminate your contract. In that case, you should simply accept the decision and move on, focusing your energy on finding a new job quickly.