Basics of Unemployment Compensation

Q: What is unemployment compensation?

A: Unemployment compensation is a government benefits program that protects workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own from imminent financial hardships. People who qualify to receive unemployment compensation get a weekly check and help finding a new job. Most people receiving unemployment compensation receive about ½ of what they earned at their job. However, you may receive more money if you have a dependant spouse or child. Unemployment compensation usually can last for up to 26 weeks. However, your unemployment compensation benefits can end after 16 weeks, or you can be denied benefits altogether, if you didn’t work enough in the previous year.

Q: Can you get unemployment compensation?

A: You are eligible to receive unemployment compensation if you:

  1. Were fired or laid off through no fault of your own, or if you were forced to quit because of a compelling reason, and
  2. Are able and available to work at another job that is suitable, considering your skills, education, or training, and
  3. Worked for a company that paid unemployment compensation taxes, and
  4. Earned enough money to qualify for unemployment compensation.

Q: Can you get partial unemployment compensation if your hours are cut back?

A: You may be able to receive partial unemployment compensation if your work hours are cut back because of a lack of work. At your job, you can earn up to 40% of your weekly unemployment compensation amount without losing any unemployment benefits. Anything you earn over this amount is deducted from your weekly check.

Q: What are some reasons you could be denied unemployment compensation?

A: You could be denied unemployment compensation if you:

  • Voluntarily quit your job, without a compelling reason
  • Were fired because of willful misconduct or refused suitable work
  • Are unable or unavailable to work
  • Are incarcerated following a conviction
  • Are participating in a strike
  • If you are a school employee temporarily laid off during an established and customary vacation or holiday period.

Q: If you are pregnant, can you collect unemployment compensation?

A: Yes. The same rules apply to pregnant women as apply to everyone else. However, pregnancy is not considered good cause to voluntarily quit a job. If you choose not to work because you are pregnant, you cannot receive unemployment compensation. However, if your company fires you because of your pregnancy (and you are “able and available” for work), you can receive unemployment compensation. You can continue to receive your unemployment compensation benefits after the child is born if you are able and available to work.

Q: How do you apply for unemployment compensation?

A: Applications for unemployment compensation may be submitted by phone with the UC Service Center at 1-888-313-7284, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Only persons with Social Security Numbers ending in an odd number may call on Mondays. Only persons with SSNs ending in an even number may call on Tuesdays. All claimants may call on Thursdays and Fridays. Videophone service for ASL users is available only on Wednesdays from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm. Applications may also be submitted anytime online at You should apply for unemployment compensation benefits as soon as you possibly can after losing or leaving your job. The UC Service Center will interview you and your former employer to determine if you should receive unemployment compensation. You will receive a written notice telling you whether or not you will receive unemployment benefits.

Q: What if you are denied unemployment compensation?

A: If you disagree with the decision, you can appeal. (Your former employer can appeal the decision too.) The appeals process can be a little complex. So, for more guidance, please see the NLSA pamphlet on appealing unemployment compensation decisions.