Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Nebraska

Are you recently out of a job? If so, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are available to workers who are laid off, quit for qualifying reasons, or are fired for some reason other than misconduct. Although the general structure of unemployment compensation is similar across the country, each state has its own rules on eligibility, benefit amounts, duration, and more. This article explains how unemployment works in Nebraska.

Are You Eligible for Unemployment?

In nearly all states, you must meet the following three requirements in order to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits:

  • You must have earned a certain minimum amount in wages or worked a certain number of hours at your job.
  • You must be out of work through no fault of your own.
  • You must be ready and willing to work, and you must be actively looking for employment.

Do You Meet the Minimum Earnings Requirement?

Nearly all states use a one-year “base period” to determine whether you’ve earned enough in wages to qualify for unemployment. The Nebraska Department of Labor (DOL), the agency that administers unemployment benefits, will look to the five quarters immediately preceding your claim. The first four out of those five quarters is considered the base period. For example, if you file your claim in July of 2018, your base period will be April of 2017 to March of 2018. (For more information, see Nolo's article, Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period.)

To meet the earnings requirement, you must have earned at least $4,145.74 during the entire base period, with at least $1,850 earned in one quarter and at least $800 earned in another quarter.

Are You Out of Work Through No Fault of Your Own?

One of the most disputed issues between employers and employees is whether the employee is out of work through no fault of his or her own. Like most other states, Nebraska treats layoffs, terminations, and voluntary resignations differently.

  • Layoffs. The simplest scenario is where the employee was laid off due to lack of work or other business reasons that have nothing to do with the employee’s quality of work. If your company was downsizing and laid you off, you will still be eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Terminations. Being terminated is not an absolute bar to recovering unemployment. If you were fired because you simply lacked the skills for the job or weren’t a good fit personality-wise, you won’t be barred from receiving benefits. In general, you will only be disqualified if you were fired for misconduct. Nebraska distinguishes between three types of misconduct: ordinary misconduct, aggravated misconduct, and gross misconduct.
    • Ordinary misconduct: any behavior within the employee’s control, which the employee knew or should have known would damage the employer’s interests and did in fact damage the employer’s interest. The employee is disqualified from receiving benefits for 14 weeks.
    • Aggravated misconduct: misconduct of a more serious nature, including being under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the workplace. The employee’s wages from that employer do not count towards the earnings requirement.
    • Gross misconduct: intentional, severe, or unlawful acts by the employee. The employee is disqualified until he or she gets a new job and meets the earning requirements again.
  • Voluntary Resignation. If you quit your job voluntarily, you won’t be eligible for unemployment unless you had “good cause” to quit. In Nebraska, you will have good cause if you quit for a compelling work-related reason, such as dangerous working conditions that you employer refused to improve. You will also have good cause for certain personal compelling reasons, such as quitting to protect your health or to escape domestic violence. Quitting without good cause usually results in disqualification for 13 weeks. However, if you quit your job to accept a better full-time job that fell through, you may only be disqualified for two weeks.

Are You Available and Actively Searching for Work?

To be eligible for unemployment, you must be able and available to perform work on at least four days out of the week. You must also be actively searching for work, which includes making at least two job contacts each week and keeping an online log of your work search activities. The Nebraska DOL may audit your work search log to verify your efforts. (See Nolo's article, Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work? for more information on these requirements.)

If you’re offered suitable employment, you must accept it. Whether a job is suitable depends on what’s typical in your occupation in terms of hours, wages, commuting distance, and the skill and training required. If you turn down a suitable job offer, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits for 12 weeks.

How Much Will You Receive Each Week?

Unemployment benefits in Nebraska are 50% of your average weekly wage from your highest paid quarter, up to a maximum weekly amount of $408 (in 2017). Benefits are available for 26 weeks or until you've received one-third of your base period wages, whichever is less.

How Do I File a Claim?

You can file your unemployment claim online by going to the Nebraska Department of Labor website and selecting “File a Claim.” You will be eligible for benefits as of the date that you file your claim, so it’s important to file as soon as you are out of work. Once you file your initial claim, you will need to continue to file a claim each for week for which you are requesting benefits. You may also be required to register for employment services with Nebraska Works.

Once the DOL receives your claim, it will send you some documents, including a Monetary Determination indicating your weekly benefit amount if you meet all other eligibility requirements.

How Do I Appeal a Denial?

If your claim for unemployment is denied, you have 20 days to appeal the decision with the Nebraska Appeal Tribunal. Your request must be in writing, but can be completed by mail, fax, or online at dol.nebraska.gov.

Once the Appeal Tribunal receives your request, it will schedule a hearing. Hearings are informal and conducted by telephone. The Tribunal will mail a written decision to the parties. If you disagree with the Tribunal’s decision, you may appeal through the Nebraska state court system.

For more information on the Nebraska unemployment process, visit the Nebraska DOL’s website.

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