Workplace Rights

Weekly (12/17/18)

Topic of the Week  Unemployment Insurance

 If you've lost your job it's important to know how to apply for unemployment insurance in your state. Each state has its own system for accepting applications. While most states only allow you to apply by telephone or online, some also permit you to apply through the mail. In-person applications have been largely eliminated. Because each state’s application process varies, it is important that you visit your state’s homepage for the most up-to-date requirements.

What information do I need to provide when completing my unemployment compensation application?
You will be required to provide certain types of information as part of the application process. Such information may include:


  • social security number
  • driver's license or motor vehicle ID card number
  • complete mailing address, including city, state, zip code, and telephone number
  • alien registration card (if applicable)
  • the name, address, and phone number of every employer you've worked for in the past 18 months, whether full-time, part-time, temporary, or for cash.
  • Recent earnings statements, severance pay, vacation and holiday pay, and the date it was paid to you.

If you are a federal employee or were released from the military, additional documentation may be required.

While you may be able to file a claim for benefits without all of these documents, missing information can delay your first payment.

During the application process, you will be asked a series of questions concerning why you left your previous employment. When explaining why you are no longer employed, you should be as clear and concise as possible. For example, state that you misunderstood directions, if you did. If you made a mistake, say so. Inform the office if you tried to avoid the mistake or rule infraction cited by your employer, and how you (or your union) tried to address the situation. Make sure that you inform the unemployment office if you deny the reasons set out by your former employer for your termination.

You may also be asked more detailed questions about how you became unemployed by a representative of the unemployment insurance system. It is important to be honest when you answer those questions. UI benefits are routinely audited by state government agencies to ensure proper accordance with federal law. If the government agency determines that you lied or made misrepresentations during your application for UI benefits, you may be penalized up to and including criminal penalties.

Should I apply for UI benefits right away after I lose my job?
Most states require that you apply for benefits immediately after you lose your job, as your eligibility begins the week in which you file your claim. Claims start on the Sunday of the week an Unemployment Insurance application is submitted; so begin sooner rather than later. Generally, if you delay in applying for UI benefits, you will not be allowed to receive benefits for the time prior to your application, even if you would have been eligible for benefits during that time.

In certain circumstances, however, you may want to wait to apply for UI benefits. Here are some of the reasons you might be better off waiting to apply for benefits:

You are not financially eligible for UI because your base period earnings are not sufficient; or

You are not eligible for UI because you are not ready, willing, and able to work.

For more information, see our site's unemployment insurance eligibility page.

Thought of the Week

"Recognizing that workplaces vary dramatically—by industry, geography, size, and many other factors—means also recognizing there is not one solution to preventing and addressing all workplace harassment."

–Senate HELP Committee’s report on workplace harassment

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

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