Can I get unemployment compensation if I lose my job?
Unemployment compensation helps workers who lose their job through no fault of their own, usually for up to 26 weeks. There are minimum requirements for the number of weeks worked in the prior year and the amount of compensation received. There are also types of work not eligible for the program, including agricultural workers, domestic service workers and others.
What are the legal standards to receive unemployment compensation?
Unemployment compensation is granted where the worker has been laid off or was compelled by the employer to quit. If you were fired due to “willful misconduct,” or if you voluntarily quit employment, you will not be eligible for unemployment compensation. Willful violation of company policy can be considered willful misconduct. The Unemployment Compensation Referee will determine whether (1) you quit of your own choice or were compelled to do so; or (2) your termination was due to “willful misconduct” or not. Generally, it is difficult to show that you were compelled to quit employment.
If I may be eligible for unemployment compensation, are there other requirements?
Yes, there are three main steps to receiving compensation:
- The local Unemployment Office will review whether you earned enough from the employer prior to being discharged. You will receive a notice of financial determination letting you know whether you are eligible on this basis.
- If you are financially eligible, the local Unemployment Office will then determine whether you lost your job through no fault of your own. This decision is based on information you supply when you file for benefits, as well as information from your former employer.
- Once you are approved for unemployment compensation, you must still meet various requirements on a week-to-week basis. For example, you must be able and available to accept suitable work; you may not refuse work when offered, without good cause; and you must participate in re-employment services, if required.
How can legal aid help?
If your claim is denied by the Unemployment Compensation office and you request a hearing, or if your employer challenges that office’s approval of your claim and requests a hearing, we can represent you at the Referee hearing. If either side challenges the Referee’s decision before the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, we will represent you there if we determine that your case has legal merit at that stage.
What is the process?
Hearings occur at the Unemployment Compensation Referee offices.
Here are some of those offices nearby:
Washington Referee Office
90 W. Chestnut Street, Suite 125UL
Washington, PA 15301-4524
Pittsburgh Referee Office
301 5th Avenue, Suite 340
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Johnstown Referee Office
319 Washington Street, Suite 226
Johnstown, PA 15901
Greensburg Referee Office
144 N. Main Street, Suite 1B
Greensburg, PA 15601-4497
Initial and bi-weekly claims can be made online at www.uc.pa.gov.
For more online information, go to www.palawhelp.org.