In Florida -- as in every other state -- employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own may qualify to collect unemployment benefits. The eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state, however. Here are the basic rules for collecting unemployment in Florida. In Florida, the agency responsible for unemployment benefits is called the Agency for Workforce Innovation.
Eligibility for Unemployment in Florida
There are three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment in Florida:
- Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
- You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Florida law.
- You must be able, available, and actively looking for work.
Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment. (See Nolo's article Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period for more information.) In Florida, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your claim for benefits. For example, if you filed your claim in October of 2010, the base period would be from June 1, 2009, through May 31, 2010.
During the base period, your work history and earnings must meet all three of these requirements:
- You must have earned wages in at least two of the four calendar quarters that make up the base period.
- Your earnings during the entire base period must be at least one-and-a-half times your wages in the highest paid quarter of the base period. For example, if you earned $5,000 during your highest paid quarter, your total earnings for the base period year must be at least $7,500.
- You must have earned at least $3,400 during the entire base period.
Reasons for Unemployment
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Layoffs. If you are laid off, lose your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or get "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.
Firing. If you are fired for a reason like you weren't good at the job or you didn't have the skills to perform the job, you should be able to collect benefits. But in Florida, employees who are fired for misconduct connected with work may not qualify for unemployment benefits. Misconduct is defined as an intentional or controllable act (or failure to act) that shows a deliberate disregard of the employer's interests. An employee who is fired for performance problems, carelessness, inefficiency, or good faith errors in judgment will ordinarily qualify for benefits.
Quitting. If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment unless you had a good reason for doing so relating to your work or a personal illness or disability. If you left your job because your spouse was transferred by the military, you will remain eligible for benefits. And, if you left a temporary job because you were recalled by your permanent employing unit within six months after termination, you will be eligible for benefits.
Availability to Work
To maintain your eligibility for unemployment compensation, you must be able to work, available to accept a job, and looking for work. (See Nolo's article Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work? for more information on these requirements generally.) If you are offered a suitable position, you must accept it. You must also keep a written record of your work search contacts, which the agency may ask you to submit at any time.
Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in Florida
In Florida, your weekly benefit amount is calculated by dividing your total earnings for the highest paid quarter of the base period by 26, up to a current maximum of $275 per week.
Benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. If you are still unemployed when your regular state benefits run out, you may be eligible for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and/or state extended benefits. (See Nolo's article Unemployment Benefits: How Much Will You Get -- and For How Long? for general information on these temporary programs.) These additional programs, enacted to help those who became unemployed during the recession that began in 2008, currently provide up to 73 weeks of additional benefits, depending on when you first became unemployed. These additional benefits are temporary and have been subject to much Congressional debate. Also, the availability of certain benefits depends on the current unemployment rate in the state. Contact Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation to find out which programs are in place when you apply for benefits. (You can find contact information below.)
How to File an Unemployment Claim in Florida
You may file your unemployment claim online (at www.fluidnow.com), by phone (at 800-204-2418), by fax (at 850-921-3865) or by mail (to the Agency for Workforce Innovation, P.O. Box 5300, Tallahassee, FL 32314-5300). The agency suggests that filing online is the most efficient method.
Once it reviews your application, the agency will send you a Wage Transcript and Determination Notice, indicating whether you meet the monetary eligibility requirements for unemployment (past earnings during the base period). If you meet these eligibility requirements, an agency adjudicator will determine whether you meet the other eligibility requirements (for example, that you are unemployed through no fault of your own) and will send you a second determination notice. If your claim is granted, you will have to request payment every two weeks, either online or by phone, and meet ongoing eligibility requirements (for example, searching for work).
How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Florida
If your claim for unemployment benefits is denied, you may file an appeal within 20 days after the date the determination was mailed to you. You may file online, by mail, or by fax. After receiving your appeal request, the agency will schedule a telephone hearing and mail you a packet of information to help you prepare. Following the hearing, the appeals referee will decide on your case and mail the decision to you.
If you disagree with the referee's decision after the hearing, you may appeal it to the Unemployment Appeals Commission; you must file this second appeal within 20 days after the date the first appeal decision was mailed to you. The commissioners will review the evidence from your original hearing and issue a written decision. If you disagree with this decision, you may appeal it to the Florida District Court of Appeal.
The Agency for Workforce Innovation provides detailed information on every step of the unemployment process at its website, www.floridajobs.org. Select "File an Unemployment Claim" from the home page to find out more about eligibility requirements, how to file a claim, benefit amounts, the appeal process, and much more.