Have you been denied Unemployment Benefits?

If you lose your job you may have the right to file for unemployment benefits.  Unemployment benefits are direct payments to an employee that was severed from employment usually due to no fault of their own.  The amount of benefits you receive depends on your income while you worked.  The benefit is much less than you would make if you were still working, but if you are unemployed any money coming in, is better than no money coming in.

Once you know that you have lost your job, filing for benefits is relatively easy and can be accomplished with little effort.  In fact, filing can be accomplished by going to the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing (DLLR) Website and filing on-line.  It is advisable that you file for unemployment benefits as soon as possible after your severance date.  If possible the very next day.  Even if you think you are not eligible to receive benefits, you should file, or consult and attorney to see if you should file.

Usually, the DLLR Division of Unemployment will schedule a phone interview to confirm whether you are eligible for the benefits you applied for.  This phone call normally lasts less than ten minutes and the most applicants are approved and receive benefits.  You  will usually continue to receive benefits provided you file the periodic Webcert certifying compliance with unemployment requirements, such as applying for work regularly.  Applicants at this stage normally do not need legal representation.

If your employer challenges your right to receive unemployment benefits you may have to defend yourself during the telephone interview and later at an in-person hearing.  If this occurs you should consult a lawyer.  Your employer must allege and prove that you do not qualify for benefits.  Normally, the employer claims that the employee was terminated or severed from employment for one or more of the following:

  1. Voluntarily leaving without good cause (Labor and Employment Section 8-1001).  Also known as quitting.
  2. Termination for misconduct (Labor and Employment Section 8-1003).  This is usually violation of minor company policies, such as chronic lateness and absenteeism.
  3. Termination for gross misconduct (Labor and Employment Section 8-1002).  This is the deliberate and willful disregard of the standards of behavior that an employer rightfully expects and that shows gross indifference to the interests of the employer, or repeated violation of employment rules that prove a regular and wanton disregard of the employee’s obligations.
  4. Termination for aggravated misconduct (Labor and Employment Section 8-1002.1).  This is behavior committed with actual malice and deliberate disregard for the property, safety, or life of others that:  affects the employer, fellow employees, subcontractors, invitees of the employer, members of the public, or the ultimate consumer of the employer’s products and services.   It consists of either physical assault or property loss or damage so serious that the penalties of misconduct and gross misconduct are not sufficient.

If you are found ineligible for benefits you may appeal a negative decision from the hearing examiner and request an in-person hearing.  Conversely, the employer may also appeal the hearing examiner’s grant of benefits.  If this occurs, both parties should consult legal counsel to make sure an appeal to the Division of Lower Appeals is timely filed, and each party knows their rights.  If you did not already retain an attorney for the telephone conference now is the time to do so.  Even if you voluntarily left work you may still have a right to certain benefits, so consulting an attorney is very important at this stage.

If you are found to be liable for any of the above types of conduct the penalty may be as simple as the loss of a few weeks of benefits, or as serious as total disqualification.  Since you receive benefits for a set period of time or until you find employment, a total disqualification could mean the loss of thousands of dollars in benefits you deserve.

It is in your best interest to consult an attorney as soon as you are terminated from employment.  The attorney’s fees for a claimant / employee are fixed by law at 200% of your weekly unemployment benefit.  Simply put, to get an attorney you will pay him or her two weeks of benefits so it is relatively inexpensive and if you win, the benefits outweigh the costs.

In these dire economic times where a steady, reliable job is no longer a certainty, you need to know your rights and get the advice you need.  www.davidnowaklaw.com