The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program provides temporary financial assistance to individuals who qualify to receive the benefits. Although the federal government provides guidelines for administration of separate state unemployment insurance programs, each state establishes laws that determine some aspects of the benefit program, such as eligibility. If your claim for unemployment insurance benefits is denied, your state unemployment agency will send you a Notice of Determination explaining the reason and your options.
Insufficient Base Period Earnings
Unemployment insurance claims are denied if the worker has insufficient earnings or work time during the base period. Past earnings are used to determine eligibility and the amount of benefits. Most states use a standard one-year base period, of the first four of the most recent five complete quarters of the year. The standard base period does not include your most recent employment. Some states also use an alternate base period, which includes the last four completed quarters just prior to the job loss. Extended base periods, used for workers with recent unemployment due to illness or injury, consider older employment and wages to create a base period. Some states require you to meet a work or earnings requirement for the base period.
Not Available for Work
State unemployment insurance laws require that you are available for work and capable of working. The claims process requires you to confirm that you are “ready, willing and able to work.” You can't qualify for unemployment insurance if you are unable to search for a job. Individuals who are physically unable to work or who are not available to take a job immediately are ineligible to receive benefits. Benefits can be restored if you become available and capable of working or looking for work.
If you voluntarily resigned from your job, you might be ineligible for unemployment benefits unless there is a good reason for quitting. State laws determine the acceptable causes for quitting a job. Some states allow personal reasons, such as military relocation and medical problems caused by the job. Constructive discharge, such as harassment or other threatening work conditions, constitute “good cause” in some states. Your state unemployment agency may deny your claim if it determines your reasons do not meet the requirements.
Misconduct or Labor Disputes
A worker who is fired for misconduct on the job is ineligible for unemployment benefits unless an investigation reveals the firing was unfair. After you file a claim for benefits, your state unemployment agency will conduct an investigation and make a decision. Some states place restrictions or waiting periods on claims filed by workers who are unemployed because their employer is involved in a labor dispute, such as a strike or lockout.
All states have an appeal process for denial of unemployment insurance benefits. Most appeal rules require you to file an appeal within a range of 10 to 30 days after the denial. Contact your unemployment agency if you don’t receive instructions for how to appeal. You and your employer will be allowed to present evidence and witnesses at your appeal hearing. You will receive your benefits, including those dating back to the filing of your claim, if you win the appeal. Appeals to higher review levels are available to you and your employer. Your employer’s appeal to a higher level does not affect your benefits.
- U.S. Department of Labor: State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- MFY Legal Services: Unemployment Insurance – Denial of Benefits
- NOLO: Denied Unemployment Benefits – The Appeal Process
- NOLO: Unemployment Compensation – Understanding the Base Period
- National Conference of State Legislators: Unemployment Insurance Base Periods
- NOLO: Unemployment Benefits – What if I Quit?
Gail Sessoms, a grant writer and nonprofit consultant, writes about nonprofit, small business and personal finance issues. She volunteers as a court-appointed child advocate, has a background in social services and writes about issues important to families. Sessoms holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies.