I Got Fired. What Are My Chances to Get Unemployment?

I’ve been at this company for three years. I’ve never been a great employee, but I did my work and it was fine. Then I got a new boss who really pushed me. I admit, I reacted poorly and started doing things like coming in late. Still, I was surprised when I got fired! I know I was wrong to come in late to work all the time, but my boss was driving me crazy. Anyway, what are my chances of getting unemployment? They have documentation that I’m at fault here.

First the standard unemployment disclaimer: unemployment is a state decision so your mileage may vary.

But my best guess is that you’ll be fine and you’ll be granted unemployment payments. If you’re not, you should appeal the decision.

Unemployment payments aren’t only for those who were perfect at work. In most cases you have to be pretty awful to get unemployment denied. So, unless you are downplaying your problems–mediocre employee who comes in late frequently is one thing, sexually harassing coworkers and screaming at customers is another–chances are the unemployment board will grant you unemployment.

Typically, people don’t receive unemployment for the following reasons:

  • You are fired for “cause.” This isn’t that you were a bad employee, but that you were a bad employee. Did you steal, cheat, sell trade secrets the competitor? That’s cause. Being a slacker, which generally includes coming in late from time to time, isn’t likely to reach the level of “cause.” Of course if you were late most of the time, it could reach that level.
  • You actually quit the job. There is something called “constructive discharge” where you can claim that the working conditions were so horrible that any reasonable person would quit, but this is a high bar. This is why unethical companies try to force people to resign, so they aren’t eligible for unemployment. A true forced resignation leaves you eligible, but convincing the unemployment board of that is pretty hard, especially when the company produces a letter with your signature on it that says you are resigning. (Go here, here, and here if you face forced resignation.)
  • You didn’t work enough to qualify. The unemployment board is onto this one cool trick where you get a job, work two weeks, do something horrible, get fired, and get unemployment. You have to be able to prove you worked enough to qualify. State rules vary.
  • You have no intention of finding a new job. As a general rule, they won’t immediately come down on you, but often you must prove you’re actually job hunting. All recruiters know the joy of having to deal with applications from people who don’t want the job. This is why.

So, in this case, provided you weren’t always late or your lateness was 5 minutes and not five hours, you’ll probably get unemployment. If not, always appeal.

And for the HR people out there–it’s always best to not oppose unemployment. Remember your primary goal when you fire someone is that they go away and never bother you again. Fighting unemployment is the fastest way to make them stick around, annoying you and possibly filing lawsuits.


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3 thoughts on “I Got Fired. What Are My Chances to Get Unemployment?

  1. I work as an adjudicator for a state unemployment benefits department (we conduct the investigation and make the decision about eligibility). In my state and I suspect most states (but don’t quote me on that), if you were late to work, even if infrequently, and you are warned by your employer about being late and you are late again without demonstrating you took reasonable actions to prevent being late again, you will be denied unemployment.

    It’s really about the misconduct (being late in your case) and you knowing it was misconduct (or should have known, and by your own admission you knew…) then you should be denied benefits by rule and law.

    Now that’s IF the final incident was being late to work. If your employer says “it wasn’t a good fit” or other such thing without further providing specific information about what the final incident aka last straw, was and the details surrounding it with information on the warnings.

    And of course appeal that decision.

  2. Today I learned that the only thing HR is actually good for is permanently blocking the only big conference room on the floor and not allowing the engineers (or other people who do actual work and make money for the company) to use it. Tried to book it but it is being used for “HR team lead meeting” (whatever the frick that is) even though 90% of HR has gone remote. Thanks big-wig HR lady! You are even more of a drain on the company than I originally thought! Thank God I got an actual degree and don’t have to do HR work.

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