Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Rhode Island

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

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

Did you recently lose your job in Rhode Island? If so, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits: payments intended to partially replace the wages of employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Although the basic rules for unemployment are similar across the board, the eligibility rules, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state.

Below you'll find information on collecting unemployment in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Eligibility Requirements for Unemployment Benefits

The Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training 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 Rhode Island:

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

Rhode Island Unemployment Eligibility: Past Earnings

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 Rhode Island, 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 November of 2021, the base period would be from July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

To qualify for benefits in Rhode Island, you must either have earned $12,120 or more during the entire base period, or you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • You must have earned at least $4,040 during the entire base period.
  • You must have earned at least $2,020 during the highest paid quarter of the base period.
  • In the entire base period, you must have earned at least 1.5 times what you earned in the highest paid quarter.

Rhode Island Unemployment Eligibility: Reasons for Unemployment

In Rhode Island, as in other states, you must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Collecting Unemployment After a Layoff

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.

Collecting Unemployment After Being Fired

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. However, if you were fired for misconduct relating to your job, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits. Under Rhode Island law, misconduct is defined as intentionally disregarding the employer's interests or knowingly violating a reasonable and consistently enforced workplace rule or policy (as long as the violation wasn't due to mere incompetence).

Collecting Unemployment After Quitting

If you quit your job, you will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless you had good cause. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving the position was job-related and was so compelling that you had no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of dangerous working conditions that your employer refused to remedy, you may be able to collect benefits. You may also be eligible for benefits if you quit for certain compelling personal reasons, such as to relocate with your spouse, to escape domestic violence, or to care for a family member who is ill or has a disability.

Rhode Island Unemployment Eligibility: 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 incarcerated, on vacation, or in school, or you don't have adequate transportation to get to work, you likely won't be considered able and available to work.

In Rhode Island, you must actively search for work on at least three days of each week. You must also make at least three job contact per week, keeping a log of your job contacts and other job search activities. Your log may be audited at any time. Visiting Network RI's one-stop career center counts for only one work search contact in a week.

If you're offered a suitable position, you must accept it. Suitable work is defined by Rhode Island law as work for which you are reasonably fitted, that is a reasonable distance from either your home or your last job, and is not detrimental to your safety, health, or morals.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in Rhode Island

If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit rate will be 3.5% of your average quarterly wages in the two quarters of the base period in which you earned the most. The maximum weekly benefit amount is currently $978; the minimum amount is currently $114.

Rhode Island also pays a dependents' allowance to claimants with children under the age of 18 or children 18 and over with disabilities. The dependents' allowance is an additional $15 or 5% of your weekly benefit amount (whichever is greater) per dependent, up to a maximum of five dependents.

You may receive benefits for between 15 and 26 weeks.

How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in Rhode Island

You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online or by phone. You can find online filing information and telephone contact information at the website of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

After you file, you will receive a monetary determination from the Department, stating the wages reported by your employers during your base period and how much you can expect to receive in benefits.

How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Rhode Island

If your unemployment claim is denied, you may file an appeal within 15 days. You can file your appeal online or by mailing or faxing it to the Central Adjudication Unit.

A hearing will be conducted before a hearing officer of the Rhode Island Board of Review. You will be able to present evidence and witness testimony at the hearing. The officer will then issue a decision on your appeal.

If you disagree with the officer's decision, you may appeal through the state court system.

For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the website of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.

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