Unemployment Compensation

What is it?

When an employee loses their job through no fault of their own, then money, called unemployment compensation, is paid to the employee.  Employers and employees pay into the unemployment compensation system while working.  This is the fund of money used to pay employees who are out of work and who qualify for benefits.

How do I apply?

The main way to apply for unemployment (UC) is on the PA Department of Labor and Industry web site.    Phone applications are also accepted through the UC Service Center @ 888-313-7284.  Once approved, claims are filed bi-weekly.

How much will I get?

The amount of unemployment you receive is based on your earnings during what is referred to as your base year.  After you apply for UC, you will receive a Notice of Financial Determination.  This notice explains how much you will receive.  Because the amount you receive is based on your previous reported earnings, it is very important to check this notice to make sure it includes all of your earnings.  If the notice is incorrect, you can appeal to get it fixed, but you need to do this within the deadline provided in the notice.

How will I know if I’m approved?

Knowing that you are approved for UC is a bit confusing.  At first, you will receive a UC debit card and a welcome type package.  After this, however, you will receive two (2) more notices.  The first one is a Financial Determination.  It explains if you qualify based on your earnings and work history.  It can be appealed if it is incorrect.  The second notice you will receive tells you if you are eligible or not to receive benefits.  It is very common to actually receive benefits before this notice is received.  The second notice, however, is really what tells you if you will receive unemployment or not.

How do I appeal an unfavorable decision?

If you are not found eligible, you can appeal.  You must appeal before the deadline provided in your determination which is 15 days from the date of the notice.  Also, if you are initially found eligible, your employer may decide to appeal.  The first appeal goes to a Referee for an evidentiary hearing.  The Referee issues a written decision after the hearing.  This decision also can be appealed to the UC Board of Review by you or your employer.

Unemployment Referee Hearings

An unemployment hearing is like a mini-trial.  You and any witnesses testify under oath by answering questions and giving testimony.  Witnesses can be cross examined and closing arguments made. Documents are also often used in these hearings.  Sometimes witnesses or documents need to be subpoenaed.  Rules of evidence apply and objections to evidence and testimony must be made to prevent evidence, such as hearsay, from counting against you.  The legal issues typically are either (1) if you were fired, can the employer prove that you committed willful misconduct; or (2), if you quit, did you have a necessitous and compelling reason to do so?  Less common, but sometimes relevant are issues as to whether you are able and available to work.

Job Search Requirements

To continue to receive benefits, it is necessary to engage in an active job search.  New requirements include signing up for the Pennsylvania CareerLink system, conducting an active search for work, and keeping track of your work search activities.  The Department provides a form for you to record your job search activities.  You must apply for at least two or three jobs per week, depending on how long you have received benefits.

Applying for Unemployment Compensation when you are also a victim of discrimination

If you believe your employer treated you wrongfully you should seek legal assistance as soon as possible.  You should hold off on filing any human relations complaints until you have seen your attorney.   Depending on your situation,  your attorney may want you to wait to file discrimination claims until after your unemployment is settled.

Triquetra Law Lawyers regularly assist individuals with unemployment compensation advice, including applications, hearings, and appeals.  Contact Triquetra at 717-299-6300 for assistance.