You can be denied unemployment benefits for several reasons. Although payment amounts, eligibility requirements and benefit duration times vary from state to state, there are similar reasons for being denied an unemployment claim in most states. Being fired for cause, not having worked long enough and improperly filed paperwork are primary reasons for claim denials. You'll have to call your state unemployment agency for eligibility requirements and potential reasons for denials.
Didn’t Work Long Enough
Most states have some form of "wage credit" requirement, meaning you have to have worked a defined amount of time to qualify for unemployment benefits. This time frame usually is referred to as a "base period" and varies among states. However, many states utilize some variant of working four of the last five calendar quarters. There also are wage minimums. Michigan, for example, requires that one quarter of your base period must include wages of at least $1,998 and that the total of the four quarters worked equal or surpass 1.5 times the highest amount of wages paid in any quarter of the base period. Michigan also provides an alternate earnings qualifier (AEQ) method, which basically requires that you earn $16,574.60 over a four-quarter period.
If you left your job voluntarily and not through employer action such as a layoff, you probably aren't eligible for benefits. As with most denials, there usually are exceptions and an appeals process, so be sure to follow up.
Fired for Cause
As with voluntary separation, getting fired for just cause also is reason for denial. You may have broken a company rule or policy, performed your job duties poorly, neglected responsibilities, missed too much time, or been guilty of theft or another crime. Lying on your job application also is just cause for being fired.
Unable or Unwilling to Work
You must be willing and able to work to apply and receive benefits. If you're a full-time student, for example, you probably will be refused benefits. Night-school classes are acceptable, but you must be available to work during daytime hours (or willing to accept a different shift position). Your benefits also may be terminated if, while receiving benefits, you refuse work for which you're trained and able to perform.
Not Actively Seeking Work
Actively seeking employment is another criteria required by all states. Most states will insist that you keep a log of potential employers to whom you've applied or with whom you've inquired about work, complete with names and contact numbers for verification. Tennessee has a one-week waiting period, for which you're paid only after qualifying.
Aren’t Authorized to Work
You must be a U.S. citizen or possess an unexpired work permit or other authorization. Also, if you have a work visa that stipulates certain work conditions -- such as obtaining work within 30 days of losing a job -- you wouldn't be eligible in most states because unemployment filing and processing usually takes longer than 30 days.
Received Severance Package
If you received a severance or other compensation package upon separation from your employer, you most likely won't qualify for unemployment benefits, although the amount of the package may be taken into account or appealed.
You may have made a mistake when filing your unemployment paperwork. This can cause delays or even rejections. Your claim also will be denied if fraud is detected, such as fudging on your wages to qualify.
- Employment Issues: Unemployment Offices
- Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency: Claiming Unemployment Benefits in Michigan
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development: Unemployment Benefits
- File Unemployment: Unemployment Benefits Eligibility
- U.S. Department of Labor: DOL Services by Location
- MFY Legal Services: Unemployment Insurance: Denial of Benefits
- File Unemployment: Unemployment Benefits Comparison by State
- Wisconsin Division of Unemployment Insurance: FAQs about Eligibility Issues