In Minnesota -- 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 Minnesota.
In Minnesota, the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) 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 Minnesota:
• Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
• You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Minnesota law.
• You must be able and available, and you must be 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 Minnesota, 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 $2,400 or 5.3% of the state’s average annual wage (rounded down to the next $100), whichever number is higher.
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’ll still likely be eligible to receive benefits. For example, if you were fired for being inefficient or making honest mistakes at work (despite putting in reasonable effort), you will still be eligible for unemployment.
However, if your actions rise to the level of “misconduct,” you will not be eligible to receive unemployment. In Minnesota, misconduct means any intentional or careless conduct that shows a substantial lack of concern for the employment or that is a serious violation of standards that an employer can reasonably expect from the employee. The following are examples of 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 had to relocate because your spouse got a new job, if you left to care for a family member with a serious illness, or if you quit in order to escape domestic violence.
To maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to accept a job, 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. A position is suitable if it is reasonably related to your qualifications and if the hours, pay, distance, and other working conditions are typical of your occupation. However, the longer you are employed, the more willing you’ll have to be to accept a position that requires less skill or that pays lower wages.
You must conduct a reasonable search for work each week. You should keep a record of your job search efforts, including the employers you’ve contacted, the dates you made contact, and the outcome. The DEED may contact you or your employer contacts to verify your efforts.
The DEED determines your weekly benefit amount. Your weekly benefit amount will be about 50% of your average weekly wage during the base period, up to a maximum of $640. Benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. To get an idea of how much your weekly benefit might be, plug your information into the DEED Benefits 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 http://www.uimn.org. Once you file, you must continue to file weekly claims with the DEED for each week for which you are claiming benefits.
Once it receives your application, the DEED will send you some documents, including a Determination of Benefit Account, indicating your potential weekly benefit amount and duration.
If your unemployment claim is denied, you may request an appeal. Your request for appeal must be in writing (letter format is fine, or you can file online at the DEED website), and it must be received by the deadline stated in the DEED’s determination letter. After receiving your appeal request, a hearing will be scheduled to receive evidence from both you and your employer. An Unemployment Law Judge (ULJ) will conduct the hearing, usually held by telephone, and will issue a written decision.
If you disagree with the ULJ’s decision, you can file a Request for Reconsideration, asking the ULJ to reconsider. If you are not satisfied with the result, you may appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The DEED provides additional information on the unemployment process at its website, www.uimn.org (select "Applicants" to apply for benefits online, find out current eligibility requirements and benefit amounts, learn about the appeals process, and much more).