Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Iowa

Learn the unemployment eligibility rules, benefit amounts, and more for Iowa.

Did you recently lose your job in Iowa? If so, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits: payments intended to partially replace the wages of 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. Below you’ll find information on collecting unemployment in Iowa.

Eligibility for Unemployment in Iowa

In Iowa, the Unemployment Insurance Services Division of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) 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 Iowa:

  • 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 Iowa law.
  • You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.

Past Earnings

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 Iowa, 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 file your claim in August of 2015, the base period would be from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015.

To qualify for benefits in Iowa, you must meet all four of the following requirements:

  • You must have earned wages in at least two quarters of the base period.
  • Your wages during the entire base period must be at least 1.25 times your wages in the highest-paid quarter.
  • Your wages in the highest-paid quarter must be at least $1,430.
  • Your wages in the lowest-paid quarter must be at least $720.

Reasons for Unemployment

In Iowa, 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 will be ineligible for benefits. Iowa defines misconduct as a material breach of your duty to your employer or repeated acts of carelessness or negligence. The IWD Appeals Bureau has found the following to constitute misconduct:

  • repeated unexcused absences (if the employee is ill or has another reasonable justification for being absent and properly notifies the employer, that doesn’t count as misconduct)
  • repeated failure to follow reasonable instructions (insubordination)
  • threatening coworkers or instigating a fight, and
  • failing to follow reasonable workplace rules after repeated warnings.

Quitting.  If you quit your job, you will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless you had good cause relating to 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. An employee who quits for medical reasons will still be eligible for benefits if the employee (1) put the employer on notice of the condition, (2) warned the employer that quitting might be necessary if the situation was not addressed, and (3) gave the employer a reasonable opportunity to fix the problem. You will not be eligible for benefits if you quit due to lack of transportation or childcare, because you were unhappy with your pay, because you wanted to take a vacation or move elsewhere, or because you were unable to get along with your supervisor or coworkers.

Availability to Work

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 incarcerated, on vacation, or in school, or you don’t have adequate transportation to get to work, you likely won’t be considered able and available to work.

If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it. Whether work is suitable depends, in part, on how much it pays. During the first five weeks of your unemployment, you are not required to accept a job that pays less than your average weekly wage during the highest-paid quarter of the base period. However, if your unemployment continues beyond five weeks, you might have to accept a job that pays only 75% of your average weekly wage; this amount continues to go down to 70%, then 65%, the longer you’re unemployed.

In Iowa, you must actively search for work each week, keeping a log of your job contacts and other job search activities. You must make at least two job contacts per week, in person, online, or by mail or fax; telephone contacts are not sufficient.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in Iowa

If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit is a portion of the wages you earned in the highest-paid quarter of the base period. The exact amount depends on how many dependents you have (if any).

If you have no dependents, your weekly benefit amount will be your high quarter wages divided by 23. If you have one dependent, your weekly benefit amount is your high quarter wages divided by 22. The number by which you divide your high quarter wages is decreased by one for each additional dependent, to a floor of 19 for four dependents. The current maximum is $511 per week; the minimum is $62.

Currently, you may receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. (In times of higher unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available.)

How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in Iowa

You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online or in person at any Iowa Works Center. You can find online filing information and office addresses at the website of the  Unemployment Insurance Services Division.

After you file, you will receive a monetary record, which will state the wages reported by all of your employers during your base period and provide your potential weekly benefit amount.

How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Iowa

If your unemployment claim is denied, you have ten days to file an appeal with the Appeals Bureau of Iowa Workforce Development. A hearing will be conducted, by phone or in person, before an administrative law judge. You will be able to present evidence and witness testimony at the hearing. The judge will then issue a decision.

If you disagree with the judge’s decision, you may appeal to the Employment Appeal Board within 15 days. If you disagree with the Board’s decision, you may file an appeal in state court.

For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the website of the  Unemployment Insurance Services Division.

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