Applying for Unemployment: The Magic Words to Use

Filing for unemployment benefits can be tricky. If you're lucky and haven't lost your job before, it can be a difficult process to wade through the red tape. Some states, such as California, at least try to make it easy with various ways to file.

But there's one area of the claim form that you don't want to mess up when filing, even though your head is probably still spinning from losing your job -- the reason for losing your job. You want to tell the truth, and there are some "magic words," or keywords, to use so that an unemployment benefits claim isn't quickly rejected.

Remember that each state sets its own laws on such things, so these suggested terms may not work everywhere.

"Laid off."

If you lost your job through no fault of your own because the company is downsizing, then this is the term to use. Even if you accepted a buyout so that you wouldn't be laid off, it's still technically a layoff and you're entitled to unemployment benefits.

"Job eliminated."

This is basically the same as a layoff, and puts the burden of proof on the employer. Go with what you were told by your employer when you lost your job, said Jill Pugh, an employment law attorney in Seattle.

If you were fired but tell the unemployment department that you were laid off, you could be accused of fraud, which could result in penalties beyond paying back any unemployment benefits you've collected, Pugh said. Penalties could include being disqualified for future benefits the next time you apply, to a higher interest rate when paying back owed benefits.

"Restructuring."

This again shows that the job loss was out of your control and that the company chose to let you go as it restructured its workforce. Saying that you got a buyout may not be the best way to word it, because some states consider that leaving your job at your choice, although most states allow workers who accept buyouts to collect unemployment if they were in fact laid off.

The ultimate test, Pugh said, is that a worker lost their job through no fault of their own. If so, they should get benefits. Employees can be fired and still collect benefits if they couldn't do the job and it wasn't their fault, Pugh said. Being unable to work a computer program, for example, could lead to being fired. But because the employee didn't do it willfully, they can still get benefits.

"Position terminated."

This puts the emphasis on the job itself instead of the person who lost their job.


"Let go because..."

This term replaces using "quit," which should be avoided, Pugh said. Using "quit" implies it was your choice. If you had good reason to quit, then you can collect unemployment. Good causes include taking a big pay cut of 25 percent, unsafe workplace, illegal behavior by others at work, sexual harassment at work, and failure to accommodate workers with disabilities. But you must have complained about the cause long before quitting

"Discharged."

This is OK to use, Pugh says, if you were fired for something that you didn't do wrong, such as steal from the company.

In California, if a claimant is discharged for misconduct connected with work, benefits may be denied, said Pasadena lawyer Melanie Calvert, in an e-mail to AOL Jobs. "Misconduct means gross misconduct which harms the employer's business. Ordinary negligence is not generally considered gross misconduct. If a California claimant was discharged or quit due to an 'irresistible' compulsion to use intoxicants, he or she may be denied benefits. On the other hand, a claimant may receive benefits if they quit due to unlawful job harassment."

"Fired."

It's a difficult word to put on an unemployment application and one you want to avoid if possible, but it shouldn't stop you if you did nothing wrong. One huge trick of employers is to ask an employee to resign or be fired, with the implication that they'll still get benefits if they resign but won't if they're technically fired, Pugh said. Misconduct by the employee won't lead to unemployment benefits, so there's no sense in fighting it, but if you did nothing wrong, then you can still get fired and claim benefits.

"I wouldn't fall for it," she said of employers trying to entice people to quit. "It's much, much harder to get benefits if you quit than if you were discharged."

That's because the burden of proof for getting benefits is on the worker if they quit, and on the employer if discharged.

"I quit in lieu of termination."

That's the phrase to keep in mind when applying for benefits if you quit while being threatened with termination, Pugh said. Even if the firing is justified, it could still be based on nothing bad on the employee's part. For example, if you violated a company rule you didn't know about, it wasn't an intentional bad act and you should still be able to collect benefits.

People worry about the stigma of getting fired and what it will look like to future employers. But if you didn't do anything wrong, it's nothing to hide from. Only your employer who fired you can look at your unemployment claim, and potential employers are not allowed to look at it, Pugh said.

"A lot of times people don't want to do that because it looks bad," she said of admitting being fired on an unemployment application.

Applying for unemployment benefits is a right to people who have lost their jobs, and it can be a stigma for people who have never done it before. The good news is that the national recipiency rate -- the percentage of unemployed workers who collect benefits -- is dropping, from 45 percent in 2001 to 37 percent in 2008. That's more people claiming the benefits they're entitled to -- as long as a few words don't trip them up.

Next: Where the Jobs Are: Growing States and Booming Industries >>



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YBK

I'm in the process of being let go for an nonperformance related issue. I've "dosed off" a few times too many, but in lieu of that, I always completed my tasks and I still performed my job well. This is stated by my manager! I was wondering if I would still be eligible under these conditions. I did not want to lose this job, and like I said, my performance was not effected, I still completed tasks that were given to me and even took care of things that weren't assigned to me sometimes.

I really just want clarity as to what's the best move I can make, because I still have some major expenses to take care of. Anybody that has any feed back about this would help out tremendously.

July 17 2013 at 10:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kashmaila Jannat

when people are jobless they said to unempoyment .the problem of unemployment is worls wide and v common. food and shelter are man`s basic needs. if u look at the developed countries than it would be clear that they have over come this problem

the main cause of unemployment is rapid growth in population and lack of resources according to population .a wise man states that
the great thing in this world is not so much where we are but in what direction we are moving `
our education system is not suitable or according to our needs .our young man feel hesitation and hate manual work .unfortunately when they fail to get a peculiar types of job it creat unemploymen .
Now the question is that how we can over come this problem ??
The countries should be industrialized .the Goverment of all countries should be give vocational training to young generation and assist them in getting jobs according to their test and ability . we should establish more factories and industries to give an opportunity to show their hiden talent.
Population should be controlled after long struggle we can be able to get rid of this problem

June 24 2013 at 4:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Betty Smith

You are not a very niceperson! Maybe you should respond case by case rather than accusing us all of being lazy. For your information I have worked and supported 2 kids since I was eighteen years old and i'm now 40!

September 06 2010 at 6:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bevogetti

Many of the comments have a valid point. But evil, corrupt government? Evil is a strange word to use. This isn't Star Wars and the evil empire. Ranting about this stuff here won't do any good. Now the comments about outsourcing is very accurate. One of the things bugging me is the administration promised to addrress this by disallowing tax breaks for those companies that outsource jobs. This is a huge problem for our country. Jobs going to India, Costa Rico, Phillipines etc are killing us. Sure it's based on economics but we can also blame stock holders who demand their profits and dividends so companies continue to go for cheap labor. Maybe we need to get on our congressman's back side to find out why these companies are not penalized. With unemployement where it is, there's a good chance it could be cut a couple percentage points but bringing these jobs back on American soil. If you've ever talked with agents in call centers in India or where ever, you know they have no understanding of our culture nor give a crap about our needs. It's really beyond depressing. So maybe we can do something getting on these jacks that claim they are representing us. Don't really know how else to it. When you mention revolt, what does that really mean? Civil war? Don't think that's going to work in this day and age. Anyway, just some thoughts.

September 02 2010 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ray

how can we get Obama unemployed and deported?

September 02 2010 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kay

State of Indiana denied my Unemployment and ordered me to pay back $4000 because I QUIT a job I could not physically do!! I had a new job one week after losing my job and I was hired to do another job and then when I get there on Monday--bingo--I have to do a heavy job where I could not even lift the huge items!! I asked to be put on my original job. Nope, there was a big man doing it!! while I am a size 4 woman. State of IN said this was not a valid reason to QUIT a job!! wtf--I have been fighting this since 9/09! Are there any lawyers here that can help me get this taken to the US Supreme CT?? My legal aid attorney is giving up!! great.

September 02 2010 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Travis S.

As an employer, I only fight the ones who quit for greener pastures or don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain. I'll explain:
#1 They quit to work somewhere else and it doesn't work out. Instead of asking for the job back they fire a claim to UI.
#2 Someone who works for you and doesn't follow rules laid out upfront in a company handbook. After three to four warnings they are let go.
Giving an employee direction and still no compliance results in TERMINATION.
These are the ones I fight every single time!

UI gives money out like Halloween Candy!

Small business employs 70+ % of the country and we are taxed to death.
The more claims paid against a company results in its UI taxes increased. That's why we fight.

Just a week ago I had an appointment set to interview a lady for a full time job I'm offering,
an hour before the interview she called to cancel.
She explained to me that she was receiving unemployment benefits and wasn't sure she was ready to give it up for a sales job that paid 30k to 50k per year.
Now I picked her based on her resume that claimed she was always the top producer in every sales position she held.
Given this testimony, I felt she might be a top producer at the 50k+.

You can't tell me UI is paying 40k+ a year!

My point is the government is making people LAZY by extending benefits. There are jobs out there! They may not be exactly what your looking for but it's work.

To easy to sit back collect and wait for the job where you don't have to work to hard and collect a fat paycheck.

News folks, They don't exist anymore! Just jobs that require hard work.

I think I'll join the crowd. Trip over a rug in front of the door that shouldn't have been there to wipe my feet, & collect workman's comp. Then file for disability Insurance due to my fear of walking through doors. Collect unemployment Insurance (because I paid in ). Then proceed to file for early retirement.
As I'm waiting to receive all my money I'll bitch online about all the bad people who fail to see things my way and don't want to pay for my misfortune/choices/inabilities.
Oh, and because I can't work means I'll have to close up shop and layoff 15 employee's.
Then we can all live off the government. Yeahhhhh!

What a dream
Now that I'm awake I'll get back to work.
You all should too!

September 02 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Lorsong

I HAVE BEEN LAYED OFF IN MARYLAND FOR 25 WEEKS AND UNEMPLOYMENT HAS DENIED ME BENIFITS. THEY SAID I RECEIVED 4,000 TOO MUCH IN 2009 AND I AM WONDERING WHERE THEY RECEIVED THIS INFO. YOU WORK ALL YOUR LIFE FOR WHEN YOU GET UNEMPLOYED TO HAVE SOME COVERAGE. OK IF THIS IS TRUUE WITH THE COMPANY I WAS WITH SYNERFAC TECH. STAFFING, THEY SAID I SHOULD BE GETTING MY BENIFITS. SO THIS SAID WHATS GOING ON? OK I LOOK AT IT THIS WAT IF I SHOULD BE GETTING 500 DOLLARS EVERY TWO WEEKS AND IT IS NOW 25 WEEKS LATER, THEY CAN DO WHAT EVER THEY WANT THIS COMES TO ABOUT 6,000 DOLLARS,RIGHT. OK NOW GIVE ME THE BALANCE OR SOMETHING AND LET ME MOVE ON WITH MY BENIFITS. I AM 65 YEARS OLD AND GOING TO A TRADE SCHOOL OF NORTH AMERICAN FOR HVAV/REFRIGERATION TRAINING APPRENTICE. I MAY NEED A WAVER BUT I HAVE HUNTED FOR JOBS EVERY DAY FOR 25 WEEKS EVEN WHEN GOING TO SCHOOL. DAM I GET SO MAD THEY THINK THEY ARE GOD AND DON'T HAVE TO ANSWER TO NO ONE. WELL ENOUGH MAYBE THEY HAVE SO GOOD PERSONAL WORKING FOR THE GOVERMENT THAT CAN HELP PEOPLE THAT WANT TO BETTER THEIR LIFE AND SUPPORT FAMILY HAPPINESS THANK YOU RJL

September 02 2010 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jim

Can a self employed person whose work has disappeared due to lack of clients in the down economy apply?

September 02 2010 at 6:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jim's comment
golfinkatiekat77

Not unless you paid premiums to the state for their unemployment insurance program. The key word here is "insurance". What the states do is purchase insurance policies based on your industry's "experience factor". Most self-employed people cannot get an experience factor determined, so they don't qualify to participate. Now, IF you're a contractor with an established company that pays for your "insurance" then maybe yes, you'll qualify. But for the most part, you just don't quality for these benefits just because there is no one buying your product. Sorry.

March 16 2012 at 3:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
louis almodovar

I was made to resign or go thru article 33 i believe, to hire a lawyer. It seem that resignation was better then going thru the hassle, and taking chances, but had 2 cases of neglict filed against me. I disagree with the charges but couldnt proof that i was not guilty, so i resign. If it comes to the point that i have to go to unemployment, will i be denied? Even thou the union stated that i could collect.

September 02 2010 at 5:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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