If you are out of work, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment compensation is available to those who are temporarily out of work, without fault on their parts. The basic structure of the unemployment system is the same from state to state. However, each state sets its own rules for eligibility, benefit amounts, filing procedures, and more. This article explains how unemployment benefits work in Michigan.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) handles unemployment compensation and decides whether claimants are eligible for benefits. You must meet the following three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment benefits in Michigan:
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits in Michigan.
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.
You won't be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause. In general, good cause means that you had a compelling work-related reason that left you no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of dangerous working conditions or discrimination that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits. You may also remain eligible if you quit because your job was harmful to your mental or physical health, but only if you get a note from a medical professional to that effect and you tried unsuccessfully to secure alternative work with your employer or go on leave. Certain compelling personal reasons will also not disqualify you. For example, if you quit your job to relocate with a spouse who had to move for a new military assignment, you will still be eligible for benefits.
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. If, however, you were fired for misconduct relating to the job, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits. For example, you will likely be ineligible for benefits if you were fired for failing a drug test, being intoxicated at work, assaulting someone, stealing property, or failing to show up for work for three days in a row without notifying your employer.
Like every state, Michigan looks 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 Michigan, 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 December of 2019, the base period would be from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019.
To qualify for benefits in Michigan, you must have earned wages in at least two quarters of the base period. In addition, you must meet one of the following two 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 how similar the job is to your previous employment, how much you will be paid, the working conditions, and the skills, experience, and training required for the position. Once you have collected half of the benefits available to you, you will be required to expand your search and accept work outside your past work experience. You will be required to accept a job if the pay is average for similar work in your area, at least the state minimum wage, and at least 120% of your benefit amount.
You must engage in a sustained and systematic effort to find new work, and you must submit a detailed monthly record of your job contacts and work search activities. You may also have to appear for an evaluation of your continued eligibility to receive benefits.
If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit in Michigan will be 4.1% of what you earned during the highest paid quarter of the base period. You can also receive an allowance of $6 per week per dependent, up to $30. The most you can receive per week is currently $362. You may receive benefits for a maximum of 20 weeks. (In times of very high unemployment, federal and state programs may make additional weeks of benefits available; see information about the COVID-19 pandemic above.)
You may file your claim for unemployment benefits in Michigan by phone or online. You can find contact information and online filing information at the website of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.
Once the UIA receives your application, it will send you a packet of documents, including a monetary determination that provides your potential weekly benefit amount.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 30 days to file a protest with the UIA. The UIA will then issue a redetermination. If you aren’t satisfied with the redetermination, you can file an appeal with the UIA, asking for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) of the Michigan Administrative Hearing System. A hearing will be held on your appeal, at which you may testify, present witnesses, and offer evidence before the ALJ makes a decision. You may be able to get free representation through the UIA’s Advocacy Program. For further details, contact the UIA.
If you aren’t satisfied with the ALJ’s decision, you may appeal it to the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission. If you aren’t satisfied with the results of the second appeal, you may file a lawsuit in state court.
For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the website of the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency.