The Common Law

Do I Qualify for Unemployment Benefits?

I got laid off. How do I know if I qualify for unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits in Texas are administered by the Texas Workforce Commission. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, initial applications for unemployment are lower this year than they were last year. Unfortunately, however, there are still many people who need assistance.

Unemployment insurance is a program paid for by employers that assists workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Although exceptions may apply in any given case, to qualify for unemployment benefits, a person must meet three general requirements. First, the person must have received sufficient wages during a recent 12-month period. The TWC uses a relatively complex system of calculating whether a person had sufficient wages, and the method can be accessed at www.twc.state.tx.us/ui/bnfts/claimant1.html.

Second, the TWC determines whether the person was unemployed through no fault of their own. A few examples of the kinds of termination that will qualify for unemployment benefits as provided by the TWC include:

• The employee was laid off due to lack of work.

• The employer reduced the number of hours, where the reduction was not a result of discipline of the employee.

• The employee was fired without any work-related misconduct.

• The employee quit for a good work-related or medical reason. For example, if there are unsafe working conditions, significant changes in the hiring agreement, or if the employer is not paying the employee for his work, the employee may have a good work-related reason for quitting.

Finally, to maintain a qualified status, the applicant must be available for work and be actively searching for work. The applicant must make an active search for full-time work, be physically able and available for full-time work, apply for and accept suitable work, be registered for work-search online or at the nearest workforce center, and call or report to a workforce center as instructed.

A person seeking unemployment benefits can apply on the Internet at www.twc.state.tx.us/ui/uiclaim.html or can call the Texas Workforce Commission Tele-center at the numbers provided on the TWC Web site, www.twc.state.tx.us/ui/bnfts/offices.html.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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