California’s budget deficit and periods of high unemployment drained the state’s unemployment insurance trust accounts and resulted in a year to year trust fund funding deficit in the billions of dollars, (projected at 4.5 billion dollars in UIFund deficit for 2016). If you are applying for unemployment insurance benefits in California, you may face an intake interview and an administrative determination that seem suspiciously aimed at finding fault with your application. Worse yet, many former employees who have been receiving benefits have received redetermination notices, which change the original finding by the state and could subject them to a retroactive denial. In this situation, an employee might even have to pay back benefits already received.
Real money is at stake. If your prior earnings were high enough and you are unemployed long enough, the total benefits you receive might top $20,000.
Eligibility for unemployment benefits in California is governed by statutes, government agencies, and court cases. Although any given situation can become very complex, the general rule is that employees who lost their jobs when they wanted to remain employed should receive unemployment benefits, as long as they have met the requisite earning requirements. Laid-off and outsourced employees qualify, employees fired because they just weren’t performing well enough under their employer’s standards should also qualify, and employees pushed out by their managers should qualify.
Problems arise when an employer accuses the employee of misconduct, violating business rules, failing to report absences, or engaging in conduct the demonstrating that the employee didn’t reasonably intend to remain employed. In Northern California, I have seen an increase in the use of outside vendors hired by the employer to dispute unemployment insurance claims filed by former employees. Additionally, the EDD may conclude on its own that the employee engaged in misconduct or is otherwise ineligible for benefits, regardless of what the employer says.
In sum, you may have assumed you could rely on the safety net of unemployment benefits if you lost your job, only to find that it isn't there when you need it.
You can prepare to complete your application and telephone interview by reviewing the material available at the EDD's website. However, you may want to engage an hour or two of an attorney’s time to review your situation and seek some guidance before you interact with the EDD. If you are facing a redetermination or an appeal, I recommend finding an experienced attorney or legal aid service to help fully understand your rights. You are entitled to have a legal representative at your side when you battle for a qualifying determination.
Remember, your unemployment insurance "benefit" was part of your funded total compensation package when you were employed, it would be a shame to be denied that benefit when you most need it.