Did you recently lose your job in Alabama? If so, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits: compensation available to employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Although the basic rules for unemployment are similar across the board, the eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state. Read on to learn the requirements for collecting benefits in Alabama.
In Alabama, the Department of Labor (DOL) handles unemployment benefits and determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must meet the following three eligibility requirements in order to collect unemployment benefits in Alabama:
• You must have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before you were unemployed.
• You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Alabama law.
• You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.
In Alabama, as in other states, you must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Layoffs. If you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or got "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.
Firing. If you were fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you won’t necessarily be barred from receiving benefits. However, if you were fired for misconduct relating to your job, you won’t be able to receive benefits. Absences or tardiness, failing to follow the rules, endangering the safety of coworkers, and disregarding instructions or orders are all considered misconduct. The seriousness of the misconduct, whether you were warned about the problems, and any steps you took to correct the behavior will determine the effect of your firing on your eligibility for benefits.
Quitting. If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits unless you had good cause connected with your work. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving the position was job-related and was so compelling that you had no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of dangerous working conditions or sexual harassment that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits.
Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period). In Alabama, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim. For example, if you filed your claim in November of 2015, the base period would be from October 1, 2014, through September 30, 2015.
To qualify for benefits in Alabama, you must meet all three of the following requirements:
To keep collecting unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, and looking for employment. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?) If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it.
Whether a position is suitable depends on a number of factors, including the skill and training required, how much the job pays, how similar the job is to your former employment, and how far you will have to commute to work if you take the job. However, as time goes on, you will be expected to modify your standards and consider accepting work that is different or that pays less than what you were receiving.
You must engage in a good faith search for work. You must keep records of the employers you contact, the dates you made contact, and the outcome. The Department of Labor may ask you to provide contact information for employers you’ve contacted at any point during your claim.
If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit rate (WBR) will be 1/26 of your average quarterly earnings in your two highest paid quarters of the base period. The minimum amount you will receive is $45; the maximum amount you will receive is $265. You may receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. (In times of very high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available.)
You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online or by phone. You can find online filing information, as well as the numbers for filing by phone, at the Department of Labor website.
Once it receives your application, the Department will send you some documents, including a Monetary Determination indicating whether you met the initial earnings requirements to qualify for benefits and how much you can expect to receive each week.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 15 days from the mailing date to appeal the decision (or seven days, if the decision as handed to you in person). After receiving your appeal request, the Hearing and Appeals Division of the Department of Labor will schedule a hearing before a Hearings Officer, at which you can present evidence and witnesses. Hearings are held by phone.
If you disagree with the Hearing Officer’s decision after the initial hearing, you can request an appeal by the Board of Appeals within 15 days. And, if you disagree with the Board’s finding, you may file an appeal in court within 30 days.
For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit Alabama’s Department of Labor website.