This article was written by Brandon White, Director of Human Resources at Helpside. Brandon has more than a decade of experience, allowing him to make complicated employment situations and regulations approachable for small businesses.

When an employee is separated from employment, they may qualify for unemployment compensation through the state they were working in. While some of the requirements and processes vary from state to state, here is some basic information about the unemployment claims process.

Why is it important for employers to respond to unemployment claims?

It is important for employers to provide accurate information to the state for all unemployment claims to ensure that only those who are truly eligible receive compensation.

Actively responding to unemployment claims can also deter future misconduct. When employees know that their employer will fight unemployment claims, they are less likely to engage in misconduct that could lead to termination. This can help to create a more positive and productive work environment.

Even if you believe a former employee is eligible, providing accurate information allows the state to make that determination.  It is important to note that the state unemployment agency makes the final decision on whether an employee qualifies for unemployment compensation, not the employer.

What are some reasons that an employee may qualify for unemployment compensation?

Eligibility requirements for unemployment vary from state to state, but there are some general reasons that an employee may qualify for benefits. These include:

  • Being laid off due to lack of work (often called Reduction in Force or RIF)
  • Being terminated for reasons outside of the employee’s control.
  • Quitting a job with good cause, such as due to unsafe working conditions or harassment.
  • Being a worker who has lost a significant portion of their hours due to lack of work.

To qualify for unemployment compensation, an employee must also meet certain wage and work requirements. These requirements vary from state to state, but they generally require that an employee have worked a certain number of hours in a certain period.

What are some reasons an employee may not qualify for unemployment compensation?

  • Voluntarily quitting without good cause (see examples of good cause above).
  • Being terminated for just cause or misconduct such as theft, violence, insubordination, failure to meet performance standards, or not following company policies or procedures.
  • Refusing suitable work.

Typically to receive unemployment benefits, an employee must also be actively looking for work by submitting applications for jobs, attending interviews, and taking other steps to find employment.

What should I do if I receive an unemployment claim from the state for a former employee?

Clients of Helpside should provide the information to the HR team ( immediately. Often there are strict deadlines for responding, so timeliness is important.

One of the best ways to prepare for unemployment claims is to have a clear disciplinary action process that includes documentation. Carefully document all employee performance reviews, disciplinary actions, and separations. This documentation can be helpful to show that an employee was terminated for just cause or misconduct, which would make them ineligible for unemployment compensation. To demonstrate just cause or misconduct, typically employers need to demonstrate that the employee knew what was expected of them and that they received warnings that their behavior could lead to termination.

If an employee voluntarily quits, it is the best practice to have them provide that information in writing. We have a sample voluntary resignation form you can use for this purpose.

If you have any questions about employee discipline, termination, or unemployment, reach out to our HR team for guidance.