In New York -- 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 compensation in New York.
Eligibility for Unemployment in New York
There are three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment benefits in New York:
- Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
- You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by New York law.
- You must be available to work.
Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment compensation. (See Nolo's article Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period for more information). In New York, 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 you claim in October of 2012, the base period would be from June 1, 2011, through May 31, 2012.
New York recognizes an alternate base period for those who can't meet the earnings requirements (below) in the regular base period. The alternate base period is the last four completed quarters before the person files for unemployment. This alternate period takes more recent employment into account. Even filers who qualify using the regular base period can ask the agency to instead use the alternate base period to calculate their benefits, if that would result in a higher weekly amount.
During the base period, your work history and earnings must meet all three of the following requirements:
- You must have earned wages in at least two of the four calendar quarters that make up the base period.
- You must have earned at least $1,600 in the highest paid quarter of the base period.
- Your total earnings in the base period must be at least one-and-a-half times your earnings in the highest paid quarter. If you earned more than $8,910 in the highest paid quarter, the agency will use $8,910 as your earnings during that quarter. In other words, your total earnings during the base period need not be higher than $13,455, no matter how much you made in your highest paid quarter.
Reasons for Unemployment
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment compensation in New York. 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. You will also likely be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are fired because you don't meet the qualifications for the job or you fail to meet the employer's performance or productivity standards.
In New York, employees who are fired for work-related misconduct may not qualify for unemployment benefits. Examples of work-related misconduct include violating company policy or rules, such as those prohibiting absenteeism or insubordination. If you are fired for conviction of a felony (or admitting you committed one), you also won't be eligible for benefits.
If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment unless you had good cause for quitting.
Availability to Work
To maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, 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. A suitable position is one for which you are a fit based on your training and experience. Even if the position pays less than what you used to make, you may not turn it down for this reason as long as it pays the prevailing wage for similar work.
You must keep written records of your job search efforts. If you are asked to come in to the state agency for a personal interview, you may be asked to bring these records.
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