In Colorado -- as in every other state -- employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own may qualify for unemployment benefits. The eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state. Here are the basic rules for collecting unemployment compensation in Colorado.
In Colorado, the Department of Labor and Employment 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 Colorado:
• Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
• You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Colorado law.
• You must be able and available to work and actively seeking employment.
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 Colorado, 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 October of 2013, the base period would be from June 1, 2012, through May 31, 2013.
During the base period, you must have earned at least $2,500 in order to be eligible for unemployment.
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 were "downsized" for economic reasons, you will still 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. To become disqualified, your conduct would have to rise to the level of “gross misconduct.” For example, if you stole money from your employer, that may qualify as gross misconduct.
Quitting. If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits unless you had good cause for quitting. In general, the good cause requirement will be satisfied if you left your job for any of the following reasons:
To maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to accept a job, and looking for employment. (See Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work? for more information on these requirements.) If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it. For the initial unemployment period, whether a position is suitable depends on several factors, including the level of skill and training required, the similarity between the work and your previous employment, how much the position pays, and the distance between the job site and your residence. However, as time goes on, you will be expected to modify your standards and consider accepting work that requires less skill or that pays lower wages.
You must conduct a systematic and sustained effort to find work. A workforce center will typically give you a list of contacts or job seeking activities each week. You should keep a log of your job search efforts, including the employers you’ve contacted, the dates you made contact, and the outcome. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) may contact you or the employers you’ve contacted to verify your efforts.
If you’re eligible for unemployment, you can receive between 50% and 60% of your average weekly wage during the base period. The CDLE applies two different formulas to determine your weekly benefit amount and pays you whichever number is higher:
Benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. To get an estimate of your weekly benefits amount, you can plug your information into the Colorado Internet Unemployment Claims Benefit Estimator.
You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online, by phone, by fax, or by mail. You can find online filing information and contact information at Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment website. Once you file, you must request payment every two weeks in order to continue your benefits. You will also need to register with a workforce center at http://www.connectingcolorado.com/.
Once it receives your application, the CDLE will send you some documents, including a Statement of Wages and Possible Benefits indicating your potential benefit amount and duration.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 20 days to appeal the decision. You must submit a written request for appeal (letter format is fine) to the Appeals Branch.
After receiving your appeal request, a hearing will be scheduled to receive evidence from both you and your employer. A Hearing Officer will preside over the hearing and send you written notice of his or her decision. If you disagree with the Hearing Officer’s decision, you can appeal to the Industrial Claim Appeals Office (ICAO) within 20 days.
The CLDE provides additional information on the unemployment process at its website, https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdle/unemployment (select "Start a Claim" to apply for benefits online, find out current eligibility requirements and benefit amounts, learn about the appeals process, and much more).