We get a lot of questions about unemployment benefits in California. Unemployment pay gives people vital financial assistance while they look for a new job. But are you eligible? What if you were terminated? What if you quit your job? Do you still get benefits? How much money will California pay people each week?
Since the majority of people who call our office recently lost their job, we thought we’d put together a three part series answering the most common questions we get about unemployment. This is part one, and it details who is allowed to file for unemployment and how much people may get. The Employment Development Department (“EDD”) is the state agency that administers unemployment payments.
But, we need to be clear about one thing. We do not represent people with their unemployment claims, questions, or issues. We are not “unemployment” lawyers. We practice employment law and help people with wrongful termination, whistleblower, and retaliation cases. So please, don’t call us with unemployment questions. But if you believe your termination was unlawful, we’d be happy to provide you with a free consultation.
Who Can Apply for Unemployment in California
Let’s first talk about who can apply for unemployment. Generally, people who apply for unemployment fall into three camps:
- Recently terminated
- Recently laid-off
- Recently quit their job
While unemployment is meant to help people while they look for a new job, not everyone qualifies. Due to fraudsters and bad people, the EDD has developed strict eligibility requirements that you must meet before they will send you a weekly check. Generally, there are seven requirements.
- You must be physically able to work,
- You must be available for work,
- You must be ready and willing to immediately accept work,
- You must be actively looking for work,
- You must be totally or partially unemployed,
- You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, and
- You must have received enough wages during your “base period” to establish a claim.
These eligibility requirements are further explained in the video above. If you want to watch it on YouTube rather than here, here is the link. The page on the EDD regarding eligibility can be found here.
The “base period” issue in #7 is very confusing. Basically, the EDD wants to establish that you’ve earned wages during a 12 month period prior to filing for unemployment. Here is a useful page on the EDD website detailing “base period.“
What Does Being Fired “Through No Fault of Your Own” Mean?
This is where a lot of disputes arise. CA Unemployment Insurance Code § 1256 says:
“An individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits if the director finds that he or she…has been discharged for misconduct connected with his or her most recent work.”CA Unemployment Insurance Code § 1256
But what does “misconduct connected with his or her most recent work” even mean?
For an employee’s act to be considered “misconduct,” the following four elements must be present:
- The employee owes a material duty to the employer under the contract of employment.
- There is a substantial breach of that duty.
- The breach is a wilful or wanton disregard of that duty.
- The breach disregards the employer’s interests and injures or tends to injure the employer’s interests.
This is still pretty vague. So, instead of going into it with extreme detail, here is a link to a detailed page on the EDD’s website defining misconduct. It covers a lot of scenarios and rulings.
Can You File for Unemployment if You Quit Your Job?
We get this question a lot. Clearly, people who just got fired or laid off can apply for unemployment. But what if you quit your job? Section 1256 also addresses this:
An individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits if the director finds that he or she left his or her most recent work voluntarily without good cause….CA Unemployment Insurance Code § 1256
Obviously, the definition of “good cause” is where all the fighting is about.
“Good cause” exists for leaving work, when a substantial motivating factor in causing the claimant to leave work, at the time of leaving, whether or not work connected, is real, substantial, and compelling and would cause a reasonable person genuinely desirous of retaining employment to leave work under the same circumstances.EDD Webpage on Good Cause
I’ve emphasized the important parts. Basically, when an objective adjudicator looks at your claim, he or she is going to determine if a reasonable person under the same circumstances would have also quit. If the answer is no, then you don’t get benefits. If the answer is yes, you do.
How Much Money Will Unemployment Pay You Each Week?
The answer is that it depends on how much you earned. The maximum amount (as of 2019) is $1,252.00 a week. The minimum is $50.00. So, how do you get that maximum amount?