The Process of Qualifying for Unemployment Benefits
If you have recently become separated from your job, you may be applying for unemployment benefits (“UC Benefits”) in the near future. Applying for UC Benefits can be a confusing process. There are various steps each individual must go through in order to qualify for UC Benefits.
Step One: Are you financially eligible?
Once you have filed an application for UC Benefits, the Department of Labor and Industry (“Department”) will determine if you are financially eligible. In other words, the Department will look at your base earning earnings to make sure you earned enough money to qualify for benefits.
An individual’s base year earnings are the earnings made in the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters preceding the individual’s application date for UC Benefits. An individual’s base year is broken down into four (4) quarters:
1. January, February and March makes up the first quarter;
2. April, May and June makes up the second quarter;
3. July, August and September makes up the third quarter; and
4. October, November and December make up the fourth quarter.
Therefore, for example, if an individual files in February of 2014. The individual would have filed in the first quarter of 2014. The Department will look at the individual’s first four quarters of the previous five quarters to determine the individual’s base year earnings. Therefore, since the individual filed in February 2014, the Department will not consider any earnings for the fourth quarter of 2013 (October, November or December). The Department will look at the individual’s earnings for the following quarters:
1. The fourth quarter (October, November and December) of 2012;
2. The first quarter (January, February and March) of 2013;
3. The second quarter (April, May and June) of 2013; and
4. The third quarter (July, August and September) of 2013.
If the Department determines you are financially eligible, you will proceed to Step Two.
Step Two: Is your job separation qualifying?
In order to obtain UC Benefits, an individual’s separation from employment must be qualifying under the Department’s guidelines. The most common reasons why an individual is unemployed are because he/she quit or because he/she was fired.
If an individual quit his/her job, he/she must prove they had “necessitous and compelling reasons” to quit in order to qualify for benefits. What are “necessitous and compelling reasons?” Some examples include: health problems, unsafe working conditions, discrimination, hostile work environment, etc. If the individual can prove he/she quit for “necessitous and compelling reasons,” the job separation will qualify for UC Benefits.
If an individual is fired from his/her job, the Employer has the burden of proving he/she was fired for willful misconduct. In other words, the Employer must prove that the individual intentionally violated a policy or procedure or went against the Employer’s best interests. If the Employer cannot prove the individual engaged in willful misconduct, the individual’s job separation will qualify for UC Benefits.
If the Department determines your job separation qualifies for UC Benefits, you will proceed to Step Three.
Step Three: Maintaining your eligibility for UC Benefits
If you qualify for UC Benefits, you must do the following to remain eligible.
1. File timely biweekly claims and serve an unpaid waiting week;
2. Register and actively search for work and record for work search efforts;
3. Be able and available for work;
4. Report wages and any other work-related income; and
5. Report if you return to work, become self-employed, separate from any subsequent employment and become unable or unavailable to work.
The overall unemployment process can be confusing. If an individual is tripped up at any of the above steps, the process can last months or years. However, if everyone goes smoothly, an individual can breeze through all the steps in a matter of weeks.
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