8 Mistakes That Can Keep You From Collecting Unemployment Insurance

If you suddenly find yourself without a job, you’re probably eligible to collect unemployment. Most people believe that if you quit your job, you’re ineligible to receive unemployment checks, but that’s not always true. However, there are things you can do that increase the likelihood that you’ll be denied benefits.

Losing a job can be financially and emotionally challenging. Unemployment benefits can help.

Even though unemployment benefits are specific to your state of residence, avoiding these common mistakes can help you qualify:

  1. Turning down a reasonable job offer from your current employer. If you’re losing a job but your employer offers you a suitable alternate position, you will likely be unable to collect unemployment if you refuse the new position.
    • The level of the position and salary must be similar.
    • These rules do vary from state to state, so be sure to check with yours.

  2. Attending school. If going to school limits your ability to work or to search for work, your benefits can be denied. Attending school is okay, but if you indicate in any way that it’s an obstacle to finding work, you’re probably going to be in trouble.
    • Taking too many credit hours may also lead the state to the same conclusion.

  3. You’re currently unable to work. If you’re currently not working due to maternity leave, family illness or emergency, or temporarily disabled, there’s a good chance you can’t collect unemployment during the period of time you’re unable to work. Some states have an exception if you quit due to illness.

  4. You’re generating other income. If you’re generating income, your unemployment benefits might be reduced or entirely eliminated.
    • In most cases, your benefits will be reduced by an amount equivalent to your other earnings.

  5. You’re not actively looking for work. Most states require that you apply for a certain number of appropriate jobs each week to maintain your eligibility. If you’re an out of work teacher, for example, applying for CEO positions doesn’t count.

  6. You accepted a severance pay package. In most states, you won’t be able to receive unemployment during the time of your severance pay. However, you would be eligible after your severance pay ends. Some states don’t alter your benefits just because you’re receiving severance pay.

  7. Misconduct inside or outside of work. You’re expected to be a reasonable employee. Stealing from work, chronic absenteeism, failing a drug test, threats of violence, and a slew of other unreasonable behaviors can exclude you from receiving unemployment.
    • Some states have varying level of benefits depending on whether the misconduct is considered to be simple, gross, or aggravated. What’s considered misconduct is very state-dependent.
    • In some states, you can be fired for unreasonable behavior outside of work. You could also be ruled ineligible for payments.

  8. You quit work. There are situations that won’t exclude you from receiving benefits if you voluntarily quit a position. For example, if the working conditions are so horrific that a reasonable person would quit, you’ll probably be okay. Medical or domestic violence issues are other common exemptions.

Unemployment insurance exists to provide temporary support for those that are out of work for reasons that are beyond their control. However, not everyone is eligible to receive benefits in every situation. It’s important to be aware of the laws in your state.

Some states provide a higher level of support than others. The length of time benefits are paid can also vary. You also might be eligible for federal benefits after your state benefits expire. Know the rules that apply in your state before you quit or get fired.

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