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Do I Qualify For Unemployment Benefits?
When someone is unlawfully fired, while they should assert their rights and investigate whether they have a case against their former employer, what is likely at the forefront of their thoughts is whether they qualify for unemployment benefits. Being unlawfully fired comes in two forms:
Wrongful termination occurs when your employer directly fires you and you were fired for unlawful or illegal reasons.
Wrongful constructive termination occurs when your employer indirectly forces you to quit because your employer has engaged in or permitted unlawful harassment or discrimination or other unlawful conduct so that you have a reasonable fear for your health or safety, or you are subjected to abusive or oppressive conditions in the workplace (e.g. excessive screaming or yelling, cursing, sexual jokes or advances) or other conditions that violate public policy (e.g. being required to work more than 40 hours a week for less than minimum wage).
Being unlawfully fired can cause one a variety difficulties. One person may be angry. Another person may be depressed or anxious. A common denominator among people who are wrongfully terminated or wrongfully constructively terminated is a sudden drop in income. While some people are not greatly affected financially because they are affluent or find substantially similar employment within days of being unlawfully fired, most people will need money to carry them over as they go through the often slow process of finding another job. This is the time when you should consider applying for unemployment benefits.California Unemployment Insurance
Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary financial assistance to workers who through no fault of their own have become unemployed. The State of California Employment Development Department (EDD) manages the program. The program is financed by contributions from employers. Unemployment insurance benefits are considered taxable income and must be reported on federal tax forms.Are You Eligible for California Unemployment Insurance?
To be eligible for California Unemployment Insurance benefits, generally you must:
- Be out of work (unemployed) or had your hours reduced (partially unemployed) through no fault of your own,
- Have worked in California during the past 12 months (or longer in some cases),
- Have earned a minimum amount of wages according to EDD guidelines,
- Be physically and mentally able to work, and
- Be actively seeking work each week you are collecting benefits.
Regular unemployment insurance benefits are based on California wages earned from employers and paid in specific quarters (three-month periods).What Happens When You File for California Unemployment Insurance?
When you file an unemployment claim with the EDD, the EDD mails you a Notice of Unemployment Claim Filed. The Notice contains the information you provided the EDD when you filed the unemployment claim. If any of the information on the form is incorrect, you are to contact the EDD within 10 days from the mailing date of the notice.
When you file an unemployment claim, the EDD also mails you a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award. The Notice has information about when your claims begins and ends, the weekly benefit amount, and the earnings upon which the claims is based. If any of the information is incorrect, you are to contact the EDD within 20 days from the mailing date of the notice.
To remain eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, you must look for work each week.Issues That Commonly Arise Regarding Eligibility For California Unemployment Insurance Benefits
The EDD will likely schedule a phone interview to discuss your claim and the circumstances surrounding the ending of your employment. Your employer will also have an opportunity to provide information concerning the ending of your employment. The EDD will then decide whether you are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits. Both you and your former employer may appeal the decision. Usually the determination as to whether you qualify for unemployment benefits hinges on whether you became unemployed through no fault of your own. This is often where things get complicated.Why Were You Fired From Your Job?
Generally, if you were fired from your job, you are entitled to unemployment insurance benefits unless your employer can prove that you were fired because of misconduct on your part.Why Did You Quit Your Job?
Generally, if you quit your job, you must prove you had a valid reason (good cause) for quitting to be entitled to unemployment insurance benefits. Good cause can include quitting because of unsafe or intolerable working conditions (constructive termination). In cases of constructive termination, the question often becomes whether a "reasonable person" in the claimant’s position genuinely desirous of working would have quit under the same circumstances. The claimant must have quit for a cause that would reasonably motivate an average able-bodied and qualified worker to quit his or her employment and join the ranks of the unemployed.Laws Pertaining To Eligibility For California Unemployment Insurance Benefits
“An individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits if the director finds that he or she left his or her most recent work voluntarily without good cause or that he or she has been discharged for misconduct connected with his or her most recent work.
An individual is presumed to have been discharged for reasons other than misconduct in connection with his or her work and not to have voluntarily left his or her work without good cause unless his or her employer has given written notice to the contrary . . . setting forth facts sufficient to overcome the presumption.” California Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256.
This means that unless the employer provide facts to the EDD suggesting you are not eligibile for unemployment benefits (e.g. you were fired for misconduct, unexcused absences, insubordination, a serious violation of employer rules, theft, etc.), most likely the EDD will you deem you eligible. The following reasons are typically not construed as misconduct for purposes of denying unemployment benefits (and thus the claimant may still receive benefits):
- Good faith errors in judgment or discretion
- Ordinary negligence in isolated instances
- Failure to perform well due to inability
- Mere inefficiency
In some instances, to be eligible for unemployment benefits, the employee must first allow the employer the chance to correct or fix the problem before quitting because of intolerable conditions at work. This can include requesting a leave of absence or a transfer to another department if such is likely to remedy the problem.
“An individual shall be deemed to have left his or her most recent work with good cause if the director finds that he or she leaves employment because of sexual harassment if the individual has taken reasonable steps to preserve the working relationship.” California Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256.5.
“Prior to leaving work, the claimant has a duty to attempt to preserve the employment relationship. Failure to do so negates what would otherwise constitute good cause. This duty may be satisfied by reasonable steps, including . . . Seeking an adjustment of the problem by allowing the employer an opportunity to remedy the situation if the employer can reasonably do so.” California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 1256-3(c).
However, note that “Pursuant to Section 1256.2 of the code, an individual who terminates employment due to intentional deprivation of equal employment opportunities [under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), California Government Code section 12900, et seq., e.g. sex, race, disability] is deemed to have left work voluntarily with good cause and is not under a duty to take affirmative steps to preserve the employment relationship prior to leaving work.” California Code of Regulations, title 22, section 1256-3(c).
Good cause for quitting for purposes of obtaining unemployment insurance benefits usually does not include:
- Leaving due to ordinary job stress or dissatisfaction
- Leaving to return to school
- Leaving to become self-employed
- Leaving due to not receiving a raise or promotion, unless based on illegal discrimination
- Leaving due to personality conflicts with management
- Leaving due to a disagreement over a disciplinary action
- Leaving due to a small reduction in pay
If you quit your job based on one of the reasons above, the EDD will likely determine that you are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. The specific facts surrounding the ending of your employment are critical in determining whether you receive benefits.Contact Us
If you have been unlawfully fired, call the experienced attorneys at Kokozian Law Firm, APC or Contact us via our online form.