Unemployment Eligibility & Appeals in California

California’s unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, nearly 20 percent higher than the national average, according to the Employment Development Department (EDD). While there has been progress with job development in the state, there are still many Californians out of work. In fact, more than 3 million people file for unemployment benefits each year in the state. If you are terminated from your job and meet certain eligibility requirements, you may be able to obtain unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

Many individuals’ applications are initially denied, which winds up causing a feeling of helplessness, deeper financial hardship and possible displacement. However, California provides a couple of legal remedies for denied applications, affording those who’ve had their applications wrongly denied a means to re-state their cases and obtain benefits.

If your claim is wrongly denied, you can appeal the decision with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (CUIAB). If you’ve recently been issued a denial or if your benefits have been prematurely discontinued, it’s a good idea to have an employment attorney review your case and help with the appeals process. To speak with a lawyer at one of California’s leading labor and employment practices, contact Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP. We can help with unemployment eligibility issues if your firing is related to discrimination, after wrongful termination, if your firing was in violation of public policy, if your employer let you go due to retaliation, and more.

Eligibility Requirements for Unemployment Benefits

Below are the basic requirements you must meet in order to qualify for UI.

  • You received enough wages over the past year to justify a claim. (An attorney can explain in detail how this is calculated.)
  • You are capable of working.
  • You’re available to work and ready to accept work immediately.
  • You are completely or partially unemployed.
  • You are unemployed through no fault of your own. (You didn’t quit and haven’t turned down valid jobs. This includes employers firing you as retaliation)
  • You are actively looking for work.

Additionally, you will have to qualify for benefits each week by filling out a certification form. The form just confirms that you are still capable of working and that you actively sought employment that week. Failing to meet any of these requirements will result in denied or terminated benefits.

Common Reasons for Unemployment Denials

Errors on the application and administrative errors can result in denied applications. Most unemployment application are denied for the following three reasons.

  • You weren’t fired. To qualify for unemployment, you must be out of work involuntarily, i.e., laid off, downsized or terminated. If you voluntarily resigned from your last job without a good reason, your application will be denied.
  • You were fired for misconduct. The EDD notes that the first eligibility requirement for unemployment benefits is that you are “out of work due to no fault of your own.” If you were fired as a result of your misconduct, the state may deny your benefits.
  • You didn’t earn enough. You can be denied if you didn’t earn enough at your prior job. To qualify, you have to meet the state’s threshold for earnings.

While some applications are rightfully denied because the applicant does not meet qualifications, others are denied unjustly. For example, your prior employer may argue that you were fired for misconduct when you were really fired based on retaliation. Similarly, your employer may not have correctly reported your earnings, which could affect your earnings history during what is referred to as the base period. It is for these types of denied applications about which you’ll want to consult an attorney.

Don’t give up. Appeal the decision.

If you application for UI has been denied, you have the legal right to appeal the decision. California provides two avenues of appeals. The first level of appeals is a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You’ll need to notify the department that you want an appeal within 30 calendar days of the mailing date on the Notice of Determination and/or Ruling that you received in the mail. At the appeal meeting, the ALJ will hear both parties’ sides of the story and make a determination followed by a written decision.  You will want an attorney to help you prepare. The Office of Appeals will notify you about of the time and place of your hearing at least 10 days in advance.

If the ALJ denied your claim at the hearing, you still can pursue your benefits at the second level of appeals. The level involves having the Appeals Board review the ALJ’s decision. Like the first level, you’ll need to request an appeal with the Board within 30 days of the ALJ’s decision. After you’ve requested the appeal, the Board will advise you of your procedural options. At the conclusion, the Board will issue a written decision.

The EDD provides: “A decision by the Appeals Board completes all administrative remedies. Individuals who disagree with the Appeals Board’s decision, may file a Writ of Mandate to the Superior Court within six months of the mailing date of the Appeals Board’s written decision.”

Ensuring Your Case Is Presented Carefully

When you are at the hearing, you’ll be afforded the opportunity to explain to the judge the facts of your case and to provide evidence thereof. It’s crucial to be thoroughly prepared for the appeal so that you can justify your entitlement for UI benefits.

For instance, if you are denied benefits for not actively seeking work, you can provide proof that you’ve applied for jobs or have gone to interviews. If you are denied benefits on the basis that you were fired as a result of your misconduct, you can deny the misconduct and provide proof of a successful work history, and the employer will have the burden to prove misconduct.

While having a lawyer during the UI appeals process isn’t mandatory, it’s highly advisable for several reasons. A labor and employment attorney can be of assistance by not only explaining and protecting your rights, but also by helping you fully prepare for the appeal so that the ALJ gets a clear and accurate understanding of your side of the case.

Consulting an Attorney to Appeal a Wrongful Denial

If you’ve been denied UI benefits in California, we encourage you to contact Hiden, Rott & Oertle, LLP. Let us help you obtain the funds that are rightfully yours. Call us today at 619-296-5884 for a no-cost case evaluation.

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