Denied Unemployment

If your claim for unemployment benefits is denied, you have the right to appeal.

When you file a claim for unemployment compensation, your state's unemployment agency will review your claim, talk to your prior employer, and perhaps interview you to determine whether you are eligible for benefits. Once the agency's review is complete, it will either grant your claim or deny it. If your claim is granted, you should start receiving benefits within a couple of weeks. If your claim is denied, however, you'll have to decide whether to file an appeal.

Reasons for Denial

When an employee's claim for unemployment is denied, it's usually for one of these reasons:

  • The employee quit voluntarily, without good cause. An employee who has good cause to quit -- as defined by state law -- may still be eligible for benefits. If not, however, the employee's claim will be denied. (See Unemployment Eligibility After Quitting for more information.)
  • The employee was fired for serious misconduct. Most states allow employees who are fired for performance problems or simply being a poor fit to collect benefits. If, however, an employee is fired for serious misconduct, as defined by state law, the employee won't be eligible. (For more details, see Can I Get Unemployment If I Was Fired?)
  • The employee didn't meet the state's earning and work requirements. Each state requires employees to have worked and/or earned a certain amount recently to be eligible for benefits. (See What Are the Earnings Requirements for Unemployment?) If you don't meet these requirements, you won't be eligible for benefits.

If your claim is initially granted, it can later be denied if the state agency finds that you aren't meeting its ongoing eligibility requirements. For example, if you have stopped looking for work or you are unavailable to accept work (perhaps because you are trying to start your own business full time), the state might decide that you are no longer eligible for benefits. (For information on these requirements, see Who Is Eligible for Unemployment?)

How to Appeal a Denial of Benefits

If your claim for unemployment is denied, you have the right to file an appeal. Most states require you to file your appeal quickly, within ten to thirty days after your claim is denied. The notice you received telling you that your claim was denied may include instructions for filing an appeal. If not, contact your state unemployment agency right away to find out how to appeal. Typically, you will have to file some paperwork, explaining why you believe you are entitled to benefits. The state unemployment agency may hold a hearing, in person or by phone, at which you and the employer can present evidence and make arguments.

The state employee who conducts the hearing will issue a decision, either at the end of the hearing or at some later date. If you win the appeal, and the agency finds that you are eligible for benefits, you will begin the regular process for claiming and collecting benefits. If not, you have the right to appeal to a higher authority. In some states, this second-level appeal also takes place within the state's unemployment agency. In other states, you have the right to file an appeal in your state's court system.

To find out the time limits and procedures for filing an appeal in your state, contact your state's unemployment insurance agency; find links to each state's agency at State Unemployment Agencies.

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