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Unemployment Compensation is not an Automatic Entitlement

Many potential clients who contact me assume that anyone who leaves a job for any reason is automatically entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits. That is far from reality.  Unemployment compensation benefits are administered by each state, and the state in which one has worked, rather than the state in which one lives, makes a determination of entitlement to benefits, based on that state’s laws. I have been a seminar organizer and presenter for unemployment compensation issues in Pennsylvania, and this Firm has handled hundreds of matters dealing with all facets of unemployment compensation.

Unemployment compensation is sometimes a complicated process, and although an applicant doesn’t necessarily require the presence of an attorney at the hearing stage, it is highly recommended. One can generally receive unemployment compensation if one has been laid off, one has been terminated without committing willful misconduct, one does seasonal work, one doesn’t appear for work, or one feels they were forced to leave their job due to some action committed by an employer.

One generally cannot receive unemployment compensation benefits if one hasn’t developed enough working credits, one has broken a work rule or committed some other type of willful misconduct, one resigns without cause, one is working at another job for a certain number of hours a week, or one is operating an independent business.

The above conditions are the broadly set parameters, but they are subject to individual interpretation or a referee’s decision. At the application stage one of four things can happen:

  • The Agency decides that an applicant is eligible to receive benefits. If the former employer doesn’t disagree benefits will be received.
  • The Agency decides that an applicant is not eligible to receive benefits. The applicant can then appeal and request a hearing before a referee.
  • The Agency decides that an applicant is eligible to receive benefits, but the former employer disagrees. The employer can appeal and request a hearing before a referee. If a hearing is not requested by the employer, the applicant will receive benefits.

Let’s examine a typical situation when an applicant applies for unemployment compensation benefits which can result in loss of benefits:

Mary worked for a large company which was undergoing a reduction in force. Mary was given the option of accepting a severance package although it wasn’t certain that Mary would lose her job, and there was also the possibility that she could work in another department of the company if she lost her job. Mary accepted the severance package and applied for unemployment compensation benefits. Her former employer stated that she voluntarily accepted the severance package although her job had not yet been eliminated, requested a hearing, and Mary lost the hearing and benefits.

Remember that the hearing before the referee is a quasi adversarial process, and the legal concepts of presenting evidence properly, entering objections properly, cross-examining witnesses, raising legal arguments, etc. will be adhered to. The hearing is likely the only, and certainly the best opportunity that an applicant will have to make their case, because higher levels of appeal generally do not involve the granting of another hearing.

CLAIMS ARE DECIDED ON A CASE-TO-CASE BASIS. THEREFORE, IT IS A GREAT IDEA TO HIRE A LAWYER IF YOU WILL BE ATTENDING A HEARING.

By: Faye Riva Cohen, Esquire on her blog “Toughlawyerlady”

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