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Why was I denied unemployment benefits?

You lost your job. You will probably never forget the look on your spouse's face when you shared the news. Even if you have experienced losing a job in the past, it doesn't prepare you for the embarrassment and panic that hits you when your employer lets you go. How will you feed your family? Will you lose your home? Where are you going to find another job that pays what you need to survive?

Fortunately, there is a safety net for people in your situation. Rhode Island, like every other state, has a system for providing unemployment benefits to those who qualify. In fact, this thought likely brought you great relief at first. However, if the state denied your application for benefits because your former employer contested your claim, you still have options.

Common reasons for unemployment disqualifications

Qualifying for unemployment benefits may seem pretty simple. If you lose your job, you apply for benefits. However, it's not that easy. To be eligible for unemployment, you must meet certain standards, including:

  • You have worked for this employer for the minimum amount of time required by the state.
  • You have earned a certain amount of money in that time.
  • Your employer fired you without just reason or laid you off.
  • You tried to give notice to quit, but your employer rejected the notice and terminated you.
  • If your employer didn't fire you, you quit the job for good cause.

While the definition of good cause varies from state to state, many times it includes such factors as dealing with harassment or abuse on the job, fear for one's safety, or an illness or emergency in the family, including your own.

Additionally, once you begin receiving your benefits, you have certain obligations to meet to remain eligible, namely actively seeking work. The state unemployment office will require you to show proof that you are making contact with potential employers and applying for work. If you fail to do this each week, they may terminate your benefits.

Benefits denied?

When you apply for benefits, the unemployment office sends a form to your former employer to verify your employment and the terms of your job loss. Your former employer can contest your eligibility if your job loss did not fall within the rules for qualification or if your employer learns that you have not kept your obligations while receiving benefits. It is to your employer's advantage to do this because successful unemployment claims against his or her company result in an increase in taxes for the business.

Even if you fully qualify, your employer may contest your benefits unjustly by claiming you left voluntarily or by accusing you of misconduct that constituted your dismissal. In this case, you would benefit from fighting for your right to benefits. This will certainly be a challenge, and it would be to your advantage to seek legal assistance.

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