Some employees who are otherwise entitled to unemployment insurance benefits find themselves with the false impression that they do not have to file claims, or that they have no obligations in the unemployment compensation system. However, at a minimum, employees are required to file claims each week they remain unemployed, answer a series of questions from the Unemployment Division, and usually, apply for work. It’s important that filing employees answer the questions from the State honestly and accurately in order to ensure the proper and timely payment of benefits.
One of the most common problems with benefit claims is that individuals forget to file or assume they do not have to file claims weekly. After initiating a claim online or by telephone, it’s important for employees to continue filing until they have been disallowed benefits and have exhausted their rights to appeal or until they return to full-time work. A failure to file claims results in the non-payment of benefits unless the employee can establish “exceptional circumstances” for failing to claim in certain weeks. Exceptional circumstances are those which are the fault of someone other than the employee. For instance, occasionally, an unemployment claims representative will provide inaccurate or misleading information to the employee about the need to continue filing weekly claims. In other instances, the unemployment division may neglect to provide an inexperienced employee with the literature reminding the employee to file weekly. However, the underlying presumption is that the employee has the responsibility to know or learn the laws and the rules for collecting benefits.
Another issue employees often struggle with on their weekly claims is whether to report that they worked or had any income. The safest and most proper course of action is to report all work and income to the unemployment division, whether or not the income is taxable, under the table, cash only, part-time, seasonal, or only for an hour. If an employee works, he should report it. A common misconception is that reporting minimal work will disqualify an employee from unemployment benefits, but the reality is that unless the work is full-time, the benefits will likely only be reduced. And making misrepresentations to the Unemployment Division can be very costly, as there are enforceable penalties for lying on a weekly claim form.
One final task for individuals receiving unemployment compensation is the requirement that he seek work. Typically, employees who are not exempt from this requirement must apply for two jobs per week. This should be viewed as a minimum rather than a standard. What employees forget with respect to their weekly employment applications is to properly document and log them. Employees can be randomly audited on their job search, and a failure to produce records can result in penalties, disqualification from benefits, and repayment of already paid benefits.
Simply claiming unemployment benefits can be tricky for some employees. If you have questions about filing weekly claims, it is best to contact the unemployment division directly. If you find yourself in hot water because of an unemployment insurance claiming issue, please contact me at: [email protected] .
Attorney Nicholas M. McLeod is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C.