To be sure whether you need the help of an unemployment benefits lawyer, you first need to know what unemployment benefits you are entitled to in the United States.
This article covers the following topics:
What is Unemployment Benefits? – A Brief Explainer
The unemployment insurance programs run by the United States Department of Labor are aimed at providing relief to eligible workers who’ve lost their job for no fault of their own. State and Federal authorities come together to run these programs on the ground. The basic mode of disbursal is in the form of direct cash benefits. While all states follow the same federal guidelines in conducting these programs, each state has a separate unemployment insurance program.
When it comes to individual states, some unique qualifying criteria vary from one state to another. But, as far as the broad contours of the unemployment benefits regime are concerned, you need to have lost your job for the lack of availability of work. Moreover, you need to meet the work and wage requirements. These requirements mandate that to earn unemployment benefits, you must’ve earned wages for a pre-determined period. This period is referred to as the base period and, for most of the states, the base period is considered as the first four out of the last five quarters before the time that your claim is filed.
Claiming Unemployment Benefits: The Process
Claiming unemployment benefits has an elaborate process. In short, the process works as follows:
- First, you need to locate your state’s unemployment insurance office. One vital point to remember here is that you should consider your state as the one where you last worked.
- You should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program authorities as soon as you have lost your job.
- Once the unemployment insurance program authorities have explained the process, you should head for filing your claim.
- While filing the claim, you should be careful about furnishing correct and complete information. In case you provide incorrect information regarding your former employer, there are chances that you will face a delay in the processing of your application.
- If everything goes well, you should start receiving your unemployment benefits within two to three weeks from the date you filed your claim.
Denial Of Unemployment Benefit Claims: The Possible Reasons
Keeping the current COVID-19 pandemic in mind, many states in the US have relaxed their unemployment benefit eligibility requirements. Additionally, a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program has been set up under the provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Many people, who otherwise would have been denied unemployment benefits, can become eligible under the extended provisions of this program. It provides relief to people who do not have sufficient work history to show. This category includes self-employed individuals, gig workers, and independent artists. Some states require a separate application requesting inclusion in the PUA program. Whereas, some states need proof of unemployment benefit denial before applying under the provisions of PUA. There are several reasons why one might get unemployment benefits denied. Some of the most frequent reasons are as follows:
If the state unemployment benefits authority decides that your quitting of the job had valid reasons, you will become eligible for unemployment benefits. But, the authorities are well within their rights to decide otherwise.
Grounds of Misconduct:
If the authorities find that the reasons why your employers fired you, could be construed as misconduct from your end, they may deny you unemployment benefits.
Not Meeting the Base Period Criteria:
If the authorities find that you have not worked for a period stretching uninterruptedly for 12 months, they may count you as invalid for unemployment benefit claims.
It would also be pertinent to mention here that one might get disqualified from unemployment benefits even after being initially granted one.
It is evident by now that availing of unemployment benefits is not as easy and seamless as they may appear to be. Moreover, in cases of denial, the beneficiary needs to file an appeal challenging the decision within 30 days from receiving the denial mail. In such scenarios, you must consult a specialized unemployment benefits lawyer to represent your case.
What Does an Unemployment Benefits Attorney Do?
The job of an unemployment benefits attorney starts with you receiving a denial notice. The notice includes detailed directives on how to appeal against the denial. Although you can conveniently fill up the initial unemployment benefits claim form yourself, when it comes to filing an appeal against the denial you need to consult or hire an experienced attorney who knows what to include and what points to bring forward through the appeal.
#1. Present Evidence That Supports Your Appeal
After you file for an appeal, the authorities will schedule a hearing for you. This is where employing a lawyer to represent you proves immensely beneficial. At the hearing, you need to present evidence supporting your appeal. These pieces of evidence should sufficiently back your claim that you have been wrongfully denied the benefits that you are entitled to. You may challenge any misreporting that your employer might have done to prove you ineligible for the benefits. For instance, if you find that your employer misquoting your earnings is what makes you ineligible, your unemployment lawyer can challenge their claim by submitting the appropriate documents such as copies of your wage stubs or paychecks.
#2. Suggests Correct Recourse
Often the employer may contest your reason for quitting the job. If the employer manages to successfully establish that you lost your job because of your own faults, you will be denied unemployment benefits. In such cases, it is vital to bring in witnesses or testimonies who back your claim. An unemployment benefits attorney is the best-suited person to suggest the correct recourse and arrange for it if required.
For instance, the unemployment lawyer may help you to bring in your co-workers who would stand in support of your claim and tell the adjudicating authorities how you had to leave the job for no faults of your own. People may quit a job as a consequence of workplace harassment that they found too embarrassing to bear. In such scenarios, the unemployment lawyer may assist you to produce coworkers as witnesses who have seen you going through the harassment. They may also prove your claim in a roundabout way if direct witnesses are not available. They may produce testimonies of psychiatric counselors who would vouch for the trauma you had to go through because of the harassment.
It’s great if the attorney manages to bring a positive ruling in your favor at the first hearing itself. Otherwise, you need an attorney again to appeal for a second-level agency review and then filing a petition in the state courts. You also need an attorney to defend your position if the reverse happens. If the employer challenges the ruling, you need to defend yourself in the higher courts. Therefore, it is always prudent to have an expert unemployment benefits attorney on your side if you have been denied what you think is rightfully yours.
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