Unemployment Insurance is funded through payroll taxes of employers. It is a monetary benefit payable to an employee who becomes unemployed through no fault of his own. While the process is relatively easy, an employer can challenge an employee’s application for unemployment. In this blog, we address who qualifies for unemployment, the process of applying, and what to do if benefits are denied.
An employee must earn enough wages in “covered” employment to establish unemployment benefits. Covered employment is defined in Minn. Stat. § 268.035 Sub. 12 and non-covered employment employees are defined in Sub. 20. In general, if you worked as an employee and received a payroll check, your employment is likely covered and your wages will count towards your unemployment benefits.
Under a Minnesota law passed in 1998, high school students are automatically ineligible for benefits regardless of the amount of wages the student earned. However, the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined in December 2020 that students can still qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal unemployment benefit program for anyone not eligible for regular unemployment benefits, who lost work due to COVID-19, and meet state work search requirements and other eligibility requirements. While there is no indication if this will sway the State of Minnesota in any way to allow students to collect regular state unemployment in the future, it’s a step towards allowing high school students to have access to the same benefits other employees have.
An employee can apply at www.uimn.org. The employee will be asked to enter his name, his social security number, and other identifying information, and create a 6-digit password. Once the account is set up, the employee will see his account balance based on the amount of earnings paid to him during the recent 52 weeks, also known as the “base period.”
This base period includes all wages paid from all employers, and includes: bonuses, overtime, vacation, severance, and commissions. Self-employment and independent contractor wages are not included.
The account balance is the amount of unemployment benefits the employee can draw from. For example, if the employee gets approved for $200 weekly benefits and his account balance is $2,000, the employee can request payments for a total of 10 weeks. After creating the account, the employee can start requesting benefit payments the following week. The first week of initial eligibility is a non-payable week.
After the first week, the employee can start requesting unemployment benefits, however, no benefits will be paid out until the determination period is over. The determination period is a time frame in which information is being collected from the employee and the employer which ultimately will be used to determine eligibility. This is the time period where the employer can challenge the employee’s eligibility for unemployment by submitting a questionnaire. This may take a few weeks, but the payments will be retroactive if the employee qualifies. It’s important for the employee to continue requesting benefits each week, even if no benefits are being paid out.
What to Do if You’re Denied
If an employer challenges an employee’s unemployment, the employee will have to fill out a questionnaire clarifying what lead to the end of the employment. If the employee does not fill out the questionnaire, a determination will be made by an unemployment judge with the information that is available. If the employee is denied benefits due to reasons listed in Minn. Stat. § 268.095, the employee can appeal the determination. The employee and employer will have an unemployment hearing with an unemployment judge (usually a phone call) where both sides can present their case and question the other party.
It is during this process that an employee would benefit most form an experienced unemployment law attorney. The next steps after this process will take more time, and will delay any benefits payable until a decision is determined. Having an experienced unemployment law attorney means having an advocate who can best argue your story in front of a judge, applying the facts with law.
For experienced, competent, and zealous representation in your unemployment benefits case, call Attorney Derek Thooft at 651-485-1254 or by sending an email to [email protected]. All initial consultations are FREE.