FAQs: Unemployment Benefits

If I Am Fired, Am I Still Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

Unemployment benefits can provide a valuable lifeline for individuals and families of need of some assistance while they are between jobs.  If you are eligible for unemployment benefits in Minnesota, you may be able to receive unemployment compensation benefit of approximately 50% of your average weekly wage, up to $629 per week.  Benefits last 26 weeks under the main unemployment compensation program, however, emergency benefits may be extended in Minnesota to 33 weeks.

If you are fired, you are always eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.  But this doesn’t mean that your employer won’t challenge your application for benefits by claiming that you were terminated “for cause” and not through no fault of your own.[1]

If you are unemployed, in order to be eligible, you must meet several criteria under Minn. Stat. § 268.085.[2]  In short, you must be “available for suitable employment,” and must be “actively seeking suitable employment.”  Put generally, you must be able to work, and be looking for work.  If your employer challenges your application for benefits, you may have to attend a hearing before an Unemployment Law Judge where you provide testimony to the Judge to show that you are doing your best to look for work while you receive temporary assistance.

It is important to note that if you aren’t working because you were injured on the job and are either receiving or seeking workers compensation benefits, you are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits at the same time.[3]  If your workers compensation claim is just pending, but you haven’t yet received benefits, you can still apply, but remember that the Unemployment Compensation fund can recoup amounts paid to you to the extent that those benefits are overpaid.[4]  Remember that almost any income that you receive during the period you are unemployed can be used to offset the amount you receive in unemployment compensation, so be cautious about managing your finances during the time you are receiving benefits.

If I Quit My Job, Am I Still Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

At the risk of oversimplification, employment can end voluntarily or involuntarily.  Voluntary termination of employment means that you quit your job.  Involuntary termination means that you were terminated.

You might have to quit your job for reasons beyond your control – maybe your employer did something wrong, and conditions became so intolerable that you could no longer work in that environment.  Alternatively, maybe things outside of work became so difficult that you could not keep up your work schedule.  Maybe there were child care issues, a sickness in the family, mental illness, or some other major event that made it untenable to keep up your work schedule.

A common question asked by employees is whether they should quit their job when conditions become unreasonable as a result of what they consider to be the unreasonable or discriminatory conditions that they can no longer work at.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently considered a case like this in Gbeyetin v. Department of Employment and Economic Development (“DEED”) (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 21, 2015).

Hountcheme Gbeyetin worked full time as an assembler for Datacard Corporation from March 2011 to October 2014.  He quit his job and applied for unemployment benefits after becoming sole custodian of his six-year-old son in 2014.  He previously worked from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and was able to drop off his son at preschool before his shift started and pick him up afterwards.  When his son started kindergarten in September 2014, Gbeyetin was required to leave him unsupervised at home because the bus picked him up at 8:51 a.m.

Gbeyetin requested to work from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. so he could accommodate his son’s bus schedule.  His request was denied.  He explained to the unemployment compensation judge that unless he found morning daycare he could not work at a job that started before 9:15 a.m.  At the hearing, Gbeyetin testified that he looked for other jobs that would be suitable, but no employer would let him start after 9:00 a.m., and there was nothing to indicate that he would have accepted jobs that started before 9:00 a.m.

Initially, Gbeyetin was granted unemployment benefits because of a child care emergency.  This is a permissible reason to quit a job under Minn. Stat. § 268.095 subdiv. 8, which provides:

[A]n applicant who quit employment is ineligible for all unemployment benefits according to subdivision 10 except when: . . .

(8) the applicant’s loss of child care for the applicant’s minor child caused the applicant to quit the employment, provided the applicant made reasonable effort to obtain other child care and requested time off or other accommodation from the employer and no reasonable accommodation is available.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals upheld the ULJ’s determination that while Gbeyetin was initially eligible for benefits, he was ultimately not “available for suitable employment” because of those same restrictions in the hours he claimed he could work.  Citing the statutes, the Court of Appeals stated as follows:

“An applicant may restrict availability to suitable employment, but there must be no other restrictions, either self-imposed or created by circumstances, temporary or permanent, that prevent accepting suitable employment.” Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subd. 15(a) (2014). Someone who restricts the hours he can work is not “available” for suitable employment under the statute if the restricted hours “are not normal for the applicant’s usual occupation or other suitable employment.” Id., subd. 15(d) (2014). Thus, the court of appeals upheld the determination that Gbeyetin was not entitled to ongoing unemployment benefits.

The Minnesota Legislature provides exceptions to denial of unemployment compensation when someone quits their job, which are found at Minn. Stat. § 268.095.[5]

Please contact Gilbert Alden PLLC, a Burnsville, Minnesota law firm for a free consultation.

[1] You can apply for unemployment benefits with the State of Minnesota here: http://www.uimn.org/uimn/applicants/howapply/application-process/index.jsp.

[2] See the following link:  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=268.085.

[3] See Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subdiv. 3a.

[4] See Minn. Stat. § 268.085, subdiv. 3a(3)(b).

[5] https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=268.095

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