Unemployment benefits are available to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. If, for example, you are laid off for economic reasons, lose your job when your department is outsourced, or find yourself out of work through downsizing, you will meet this eligibility requirement.
If you are fired, however, your eligibility for benefits depends on your state’s law. An employee who is fired for serious misconduct will be ineligible for benefits, either completely or for a set period of time after being fired (called the “disqualification period”). States define serious misconduct differently, however.
What Is Misconduct?
Some states define serious misconduct very narrowly. In these states, an employee who is fired for poor performance, inability to do the job, or simply being a “poor fit” will still be eligible for unemployment. These employees are considered to be out of work without fault. Other states have a broader standard, which disqualifies more employees. For example, an employee who is fired for violating a workplace rule will be ineligible for benefits in some states.
In virtually every state, an employee who acts intentionally or recklessly against the employer’s interests will be ineligible for benefits. And, an employee who chooses not to perform the job will be disqualified.
Common Disqualifying Offenses
In most states, employees will not be eligible for benefits if they are fired for:
- repeated absences without good cause
- violating safety rules
- falsification of records
- falsifying a job application
- conviction of a crime
- possession of drugs, or
- failing a drug test.
Other Non-Disqualifying Offenses
If you were fired for any of the reasons listed below, you are likely still eligible for benefits, as long as your acts weren’t intentional:
- poor judgment
- inability to perform work
- personality conflicts, or
- unsatisfactory performance.
Again, whether the reasons for your termination will disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits depends on your state’s law and how that law has been interpreted by your state’s unemployment agency.
How Disqualification Works
In some states, an employee who is fired for serious misconduct is ineligible for benefits. Unless and until that employee gets another job, keeps it long enough to meet the state’s tenure and/or earnings requirements, and then loses it without fault, the employee will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Other states impose a penalty on employees who are fired for serious misconduct. In these states, employees must wait out a “disqualification period,” during which they will not get benefit. Once the disqualification period ends, the employee will once again be eligible for benefits.
For information on your state's laws on eligibility for unemployment benefits after being fired, contact your state unemployment insurance agency. You can find links and contact information for every state's unemployment agency at www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp.