In Illinois -- 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 benefits in Illinois.
There are three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment in Illinois.
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 Illinois, 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 2012, the base period would be from June 1, 2011 through May 31, 2012.
If you have been out and receiving temporary total disability payments under the Illinois Workers' Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act, you may have low or even insufficient earnings during the regular base period to qualify for benefits. In this situation, the agency may allow you to extend the base period to capture up to one year of earnings before the regular base period began.
Illinois also 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, you must have been paid at least $1,600 total, and you must have been paid at least $440 of that total outside of your highest paid quarter.
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment compensation. 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. In Illinois, employees who are fired for theft or committing a felony will not qualify for unemployment benefits. If you are fired for other types of work-related misconduct, you also may not be eligible to collect benefits.
If you quit, you will remain eligible for unemployment if you had a good reason relating to your job, such as sexual harassment. If you left the job because of domestic violence, for health reasons, or to accompany a spouse in the military, you may still be eligible for benefits. And, if you quit your job to take another position (but that position fell through), you may still be eligible to collect unemployment.
To maintain your eligibility for unemployment, you must be able to work, available to accept a job, and looking for work. (See 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 register for work with the Illinois Employment Service, either online or in person. You must keep a record of your job search efforts, including the dates and places you apply for work. When you apply for benefits, you will receive a form on which to record this information, which you may have to provide to the agency.
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