According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the New Jersey unemployment rate is on the rise; with approximately 200,000 people in the state currently unemployed. Many of these workers are eligible to receive temporary financial assistance through unemployment insurance while they attempt to find new jobs. Unemployment benefits are available to New Jersey workers who meet certain criteria.
Individual unemployment eligibility is determined by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD). To collect unemployment benefits in New Jersey, applicants must:
Be unemployed through no fault of their own – Employees who quit their jobs will generally be ineligible for unemployment benefits unless they quit for good cause. Good cause is determined on a case by case basis, but typically involves situations in which an employee leaves his or her position due to certain job-related conditions. Potentially acceptable reasons include dangerous working conditions, continual sexual harassment or discrimination or substantial reduction in hours or pay. Non-job-related reasons may still constitute good cause if the employee quit because of a medical issue, domestic violence or military spouse relocation.
Be able, available and actively seeking work – Claimants must be able to work, meaning that they must be capable of working, both physically and mentally. They must also be available to work, meaning that they are able to accept a suitable job if they are presented with an offer. New Jersey claimants must contact at least three different employers per week and should keep records of their efforts as proof.
Meet the past earnings requirement – The DLWD will look to claimant’s work history and earnings over a one-year base period, which is the earliest four of the last five complete quarters of the calendar year. Generally, for claims filed in 2017, claimants must have worked at least 20 weeks or earned at least $8,400, or $165 a week, during the base period.
The claimant’s previous employer may challenge the claim or the claim may be denied if the claimant has not met all the eligibility requirements, for example, if the claimant voluntarily quit without good cause. However, if an employee is given an ultimatum to either quit or be fired, their resignation cannot be considered voluntary and therefore the claimant may still be entitled to unemployment benefits. Some other common reasons for denial include:
Employee misconduct – There are three types of misconduct according to New Jersey law: simple, severe and gross. Simple misconduct describes behavior such as insubordination or incessant absence or tardiness. This type of misconduct may bar a claimant from receiving benefits for seven weeks from the date of his or her termination.
Severe misconduct refers to more serious offenses, such as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work or destroying company property. Severe misconduct and gross misconduct – which refers to actions constituting criminal acts – will typically bar claimants from receiving benefits until they satisfy time and earnings requirements after securing alternate employment.
Failure to accept suitable work – Claimants are expected to accept positions that are suitable according to the level of skill required, the similarity of industry, the amount it pays (at least 80 percent of the claimant’s average weekly wages during the base year) and the distance between the job site and the claimant’s residence.
Claimants may appeal denials to the Appeal Tribunal of the New Jersey Department of Labor within seven calendar days of the delivery of the initial determination. The Tribunal will then typically schedule a telephonic hearing during which all parties will provide sworn testimony. A determination will then be made by a claims examiner based on the evidence presented and New Jersey unemployment laws.
Claimants whose appeals are initially unsuccessful may appeal the Tribunal’s decision to the Board of Review, which may review the Tribunal’s treatment of evidence and application of law. The Board may affirm, remand, modify or set aside the Tribunal’s decision. If the claim is again denied, claimants may appeal to the New Jersey Appellate Division and to the New Jersey Supreme Court, respectively.
If your unemployment application was denied, it may not be the end of your claim. There are several avenues for appeal which, if successful, may entitle you to current and retroactive benefits covering the period of initial denial. A Princeton unemployment lawyer at the Law Offices of Thaddeus P. Mikulski Jr can help you through every step of the process and ensure that you get the benefits you deserve. We represent clients throughout New Jersey including Princeton, Central Jersey, Pennington, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Burlington County, Hunterdon County, Somerset County and Monmouth County. Contact us online or call us at 609-303-0222 to schedule a consultation.