What Are Unemployment Benefit Disqualifications?

List of Reasons You May Not Get Unemployment

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Eligibility for unemployment benefits isn't automatic. There are reasons that your unemployment claim can be denied and that you can be disqualified from collecting unemployment.

These reasons vary from state to state, but many of them are similar throughout the country. Read below for various reasons you can be denied unemployment.

Unemployment Benefit Disqualifications

Generally, to receive unemployment benefits, you have to fit certain rules related to your length of employment, earnings, classification as an employee, and circumstances of losing your job.

The following circumstances may disqualify you from collecting unemployment benefits:

  • Insufficient earnings or length of employment. Eligibility for unemployment depends on your earnings during a designated base period, which is typically the past year. This also means you usually have to have worked for your employer for at least a year.
  • Self-employed, or a contract or freelance worker. Independent contractors are technically self-employed, so they cannot receive unemployment benefits.
  • Fired for justifiable cause. For example, if your employer alleges misconduct (such as violating a company policy), or some other inappropriate or illegal behavior that leads to you being fired, you will likely not receive unemployment benefits.
  • Quit without a good cause. The definition of “good cause” varies state by state. However, common examples of quitting without good cause include leaving to get married or attend school, or resigning because of a labor dispute (such as a strike). Another example of quitting without good cause is leaving simply because of dissatisfaction with the company or job.
  • Providing false information. If any information in your unemployment paperwork is inaccurate, you might be disqualified from receiving benefits.

Unemployment Benefit Disqualification and Job Searching

You can also at first qualify for unemployment benefits, but later be disqualified while you are receiving them.

This can happen if you are not actively looking for a job.

To qualify for benefits, you need to be actively hunting for a job, and will need to document your job search for your state unemployment office. Again, these rules vary by state, but you can usually lose benefits if you do not comply with these rules. If this happens, the regular benefits you have been receiving will stop.

When You Quit Your Job

In most cases, if you voluntarily quit your job, you are not eligible for unemployment. However, if you left for "good cause" you may be able to collect.

"Good cause" is determined by your state unemployment office. However, typically, examples of leaving a job for good cause include:

  • An illness or emergency. This includes if a family member becomes ill, or if you have an illness and the employer does not accommodate your health problems.
  • Abusive or unbearable working conditions. This can include sexual harassment or other unbearable situations that have not been resolved by the employer. This might also refer to being asked to commit acts that were illegal or immoral.
  • A safety concern. To qualify, your concern needs to be one not related to the nature of your job (such as the dangers of being a firefighter or police officer). This might involve a piece of equipment that has injured you or other coworkers, which the employment has not fixed.
  • Losing any mode of transportation to work. For example, if you get into an accident and cannot afford to fix your car, this qualifies as good cause. The situation is the same if the public transportation you have to take to work shuts down.
  • A drastic pay reduction. Typically if you leave because of a pay decrease of at least 20%, you will be considered for unemployment benefits.
  • The employer failed to honor an employment contract. If an employer fails to honor terms of an employment contract, even after the issue is brought to his or her attention, this qualifies as good cause.

Generally, to qualify as leaving for “good cause,” you have to demonstrate that you tried to solve the problem by other means before quitting.

In addition, if you give notice, but the employer doesn't accept the notice and terminates your employment immediately, it is typically considered an involuntary termination and you may qualify for benefits.

Here's more on unemployment when you quit a job and information on what is considered good cause for unemployment eligibility.

How to File an Unemployment Appeal
If you have filed an unemployment benefits claim and your claim is turned down or contested by your employer, you have the right to appeal the denial of your unemployment claim. Here's how to file an unemployment appeal.

Read More: Collecting Unemployment When You’re Fired | If an Employer Contests Your Benefits | Severance, Vacations, and Unemployment