In New York—as in every other state—employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own may qualify to collect unemployment benefits. The eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state, however.
Here are the basic rules for collecting unemployment compensation in New York.
The three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment benefits in New York are:
Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment compensation. In New York, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your claim for benefits. For example, if you filed your claim in October of 2019, the base period would be from June 1, 2018, through May 31, 2019.
New York recognizes an alternate base period for those who can't meet the earnings requirements (below) in the regular base period. The alternate base period is the last four completed quarters before the person files for unemployment. This alternate period takes more recent employment into account. Even filers who qualify using the regular base period can ask the agency to instead use the alternate base period to calculate their benefits, if that would result in a higher weekly amount.
During the base period, your work history and earnings must meet all three of the following requirements:
You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment compensation in New York. If you are laid off, lose your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or get "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement. You will also likely be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are fired because you don't meet the qualifications for the job or you fail to meet the employer's performance or productivity standards.
In New York, employees who are fired for work-related misconduct may not qualify for unemployment benefits. Examples of work-related misconduct include violating company policy or rules, such as those prohibiting absenteeism or insubordination. If you are fired for conviction of a felony (or admitting you committed one), you also won't be eligible for benefits.
If you quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment unless you had good cause for quitting.
To maintain your eligibility for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, and looking for work. If you are offered a suitable position, you must accept it. A suitable position is one for which you are a fit based on your training and experience. Even if the position pays less than what you used to make, you may not turn it down for this reason as long as it pays the prevailing wage for similar work.
You must keep written records of your job search efforts. If you are asked to come in to the state agency for a personal interview, you may be asked to bring these records.
The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) determines your weekly unemployment benefit amount by dividing your earnings for the highest paid quarter of the base period by 26, up to a maximum of $504 per week. (If you earned less than $3,575 in your highest paid quarter, your earnings are divided by 25 to arrive at your weekly benefit amount.)
Benefits are available for up to 26 weeks. If you are still unemployed when your regular state benefits run out, you may be eligible for Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and/or state extended benefits during periods of economic recession or high unemployment. (See Nolo's article Unemployment Benefits: How Much Will You Get—and For How Long? for general information on these programs.) Contact NYSDOL to find out which programs are in place when you apply for benefits.
You may file your unemployment claim online or by phone.
Once it reviews your application, the NYSDOL will send you a Monetary Determination, indicating whether you meet the work and earnings requirements outlined above. If your claim is granted, you will have to request payment every week, either online or by phone, and meet ongoing eligibility requirements (for example, searching for work).
If your claim for unemployment compensation is denied because you have not met the work and earnings requirements, the Monetary Determination will let you know. You may file a Request for Reconsideration of that determination if benefits are denied or if benefits are granted but you believe the agency has omitted earnings or work history. The agency will review your request and any information you provide and may issue a revised determination.
If you are denied benefits for another reason (for example, because you quit your last job without good cause), you will receive a separate Notice of Determination. You may appeal a denial of benefits by requesting a hearing before an administrative law judge, in writing, within 30 days after the date on the notice. After receiving your appeal request, a hearing will be scheduled. The administrative law judge will decide on your claim and issue a written decision.
If you disagree with the decision after the hearing, you may appeal it to the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board. (You may appeal only if you attended the hearing before the administrative law judge.) The Appeal Board will review the evidence and issue a written decision. If you disagree with this decision, you may file a civil case in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Third Department.
The NYSDOL provides information on every aspect of the unemployment process at its website. select "Unemployment Assistance" to apply for benefits online, find out current eligibility requirements and benefit amounts, learn about the appeals process, and much more.