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Life was Going Well, Until…

“The company terminated me.”

It’s a lament we hear often. Losing our jobs has become common currency. With restructuring, management takeovers, meager revenues, and lackluster performance, we are forced to confront the ugly side of dynamic capitalism and laissez-faire policies.  When companies are forced to survive in a fiercely competitive industry, the first item on their agendas is workforce reduction.  Companies argue – and some with justification – that laying off people is the only remedy to stop the bleeding.

Question:  In spite of 15 years with the same company, I was let go. What can I do?

You have to focus on how the government can help you through this difficult period until you find employment again.  As a taxpayer, you have a right to unemployment insurance.  This right is covered – and protected - by the federal-state partnership program under the US Department of Labor.

Question: I’ll be claiming for benefits.  Is there anything I should be aware of?

Before you file your claim, bear in mind that you have to satisfy certain conditions to be eligible for unemployment compensation. Here are few of the more important highlights of the legislation.

        Unemployment compensation is based on federal law but administered by the state you live in;

        Attachment to the labor force:  this phrase – not to be taken lightly - is used by the Department of Labor in its document on Unemployment Compensation dated April 2005 (www.workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/).  When the government assesses your claim, they need to determine your seriousness about working.  This is where job-hopping, losing your job too frequently or refusing job offers will work against your favor.  You must have been working continuously for a period of 52 weeks before you become eligible for benefits;

        Just cause – your dismissal must not have occurred as a result of any wrongdoing on your part.  Note, too, that resigning from the job and being terminated are two distinct issues.  State authorities are likely to interrogate on your reasons for resigning.

        Twenty six (26) weeks – this is the standard payout period, provided you’ve worked the required number of weeks in any given calendar year.  Extending benefits beyond the 26 weeks will depend on the state’s own rules and any circumstance that may affect your case.  If you live in Massachusetts or Washington, you will be paid 30 weeks instead of 26, but this again, is dependent on certain conditions.

If you think you may be terminated shortly, contact or visit your state’s Labor Department to see if you qualify for unemployment insurance.