Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Missouri

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

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 Missouri.

Are You Eligible for Unemployment in Missouri?

The Division of Employment Security of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations handles unemployment compensation and decides whether claimants are eligible for benefits. You must meet the following three eligibility requirements in order to collect unemployment benefits in Missouri:

  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Missouri law.
  • You must have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before you were unemployed.
  • You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.

Reasons for Unemployment

You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits in Missouri.

  • 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. If, however, you were fired for misconduct, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits. For example, if you were fired for knowingly disregarding your employer’s interests or your duties as an employee, you will likely not be eligible for benefits. You may not be eligible for benefits if you are fired for violating a workplace policy, but only if you knew or should have known about the policy, the policy is lawful, and the policy is consistently enforced. Violating your employer's no-call, no-show policy or being chronically late or absent to work may also disqualify you from receiving benefits.
  • Quitting.  You won't be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause related to your job or to your employer. 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 sexual harassment that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits.

Past Earnings

Like every state, Missouri 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 Missouri, 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 Missouri, you must have earned at least $2,250 in the entire base period, with at least $1,500 earned in one quarter and at least $750 earned in the rest of the base period. You must also meet either of the following requirements:

  • Your total wages in the base period must be 1.5 times the wages in your highest paid quarter.
  • You must have earned at least $19,500 in two of the quarters of the base period.

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 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. The longer you are unemployed, the more likely you will have to consider jobs that pay less, are in a different field or occupation, or require a longer commute.

You must engage in a good faith search for work. This may include reporting in person at a local Missouri Career Center. You will also have to make a minimum number of job contacts each week; the required number varies by area.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in Missouri

If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit rate in Missouri will be 4% of your average quarterly wages during the two highest paid quarter of the base period. The maximum weekly benefit amount is $320. 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.)

How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in Missouri

You may file your claim for unemployment benefits in Missouri electronically or by phone. You can find contact information and online filing information at the website of the  Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Once the Division receives your application, it will send you a Notice of Initial Determination of Status as an Insured Worker. This document will include your potential weekly benefit amount.

How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Missouri

If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Appeals Tribunal. A hearing will be held on your appeal. Although hearings are often held by phone, you have the right to request an in-person appeal hearing.

If you are not happy with the judge’s decision, you may file an appeal with the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission within 30 days. If you disagree with the Commission’s decision, you may appeal to a Missouri Court of Appeals within 30 days.

For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the website of the  Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

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