So, let’s suppose that you have had a great employment history with no disciplinary action, but then all of a sudden you get laid off? What should you do?
Well, one of your first steps should be to file for unemployment through your local unemployment office. You are eligible for unemployment if your hours have been reduced or if you have been separated from your employer. Many states accept online or telephone applications for unemployment claims. You should have all the relevant information, such as your employer’s address and contact information, your contact information, your social security number (or your alien registration number), and the information to any union that you may be represented by or have an employment contract with.
You will generally be ineligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job without good cause (relocation with a spouse is not covered under unemployment benefits) or if you were fired for misconduct in connection with your work. Qualifying for benefits depends on the state in which you are applying. In Virginia, you must have earned at least $2,700 in the two quarters before filing. You must also be able to perform work and be available for interviews and job searching. Therefore, usually if you are on disability leave or FMLA, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits. You must actively seek work and accept any suitable offers that you are given. Different states have different requirements, but generally, you will be required to report to the employment commission weekly or biweekly and give it information on whether you have applied for jobs, had any interviews, made any job contacts, or found employment.
WHAT IF I QUIT WORK OR AM FIRED BECAUSE OF DISCRIMINATION?
Generally, once you file for unemployment, if your employer disputes your eligibility, then the employment commission will schedule a telephone fact-finding interview. Generally, both you and your employer will have the opportunity to present your side of the story and explain why you were fired or why you quit. You have the right to an attorney who can represent your interests during this hearing. The hearing is very informal, and in most cases, there will be very little investigation done or witnesses consulted. Generally, if your employer seems to have a valid reason for denying the unemployment, then the commission will side with the employer.
After the hearing, the hearing officer will make a decision in writing within 10 days (in Virginia), and you will be notified via mail. You then have the right to appeal. You may appeal, or your attorney may appeal on your behalf. Your employer may also file an appeal if the employment commission finds in your favor. The days allowed for the appeal depend on the state, so look for the deadline in the written notification you received from the agency. Make sure that your appeal is filed or postmarked before the deadline for an appeal.
At an appeal hearing, you and the employer will have the right to testify under oath and present witnesses and documents to support your claims. You, or your attorney, may also ask questions of any person testifying against you. An appeals examiner will then review the testimony and make a determination. If you disagree with this determination, then you may file a commission appeal. Generally, this level of appeal is just a review of the evidence, and you cannot present new information or evidence unless you can show a good reason for not including it in the prior stages of the claim.
Finally, if you disagree with this opinion, then you may file a claim in your local court for review of the decision. You may file on your own or have an attorney represent you.