Collecting Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina

Learn the unemployment eligibility rules, benefit amounts, and more for South Carolina.

In South Carolina  -- 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 South Carolina .

Eligibility for Unemployment in South Carolina

In South Carolina , the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) 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 South Carolina :

•         Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.

•         You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by South Carolina  law.

•         You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.

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 South Carolina , 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 meet all of the following requirements in order to be eligible for unemployment:

  • You must have earned at least $1,092 during the highest quarter in your base period.
  • Your total wages in the base period must be at least $4,455.
  • Your total base period wages must be at least 1.5 times the wages in the highest quarter in your base period.

Reasons for Unemployment

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 still 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. However, if you engaged in “misconduct,” you will not be eligible to receive unemployment. In South Carolina, misconduct means an intentional violation of the employer’s rules, the failure to conform to standards which an employer can reasonably expect from an employee, or careless behavior that is so frequent or severe that it shows a disregard for the employer’s interests. For example, showing up to work under the influence of alcohol or drugs or having several unexcused absences after written warning would typically qualify as misconduct.

If the employee’s actions don’t rise to the level of misconduct, the employee might still be barred from receiving benefits if he or she was fired “for cause.” This means that the employee was still at fault for the termination, but that the employee didn’t intentionally disregard the employer’s interests. Unlike employees who commit misconduct, employees who are fired for cause are only disqualified for a set period of time, usually between five to 19 weeks.

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 your reason for leaving was due to unsafe working conditions or job tasks, a violation of your employment agreement, or compelling family reasons. However, you must be able to show that you explored all other options, but were left with no choice other than to quit. For example, if your working conditions posed a threat to your health and safety and your employer refused to do anything about it, this would likely qualify as good cause. On the other hand, quitting because you weren’t happy with the pay would not qualify as good cause.

Availability to Work

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. For the initial unemployment period, whether a position is suitable depends on several factors, including the level of skill and training required, the similarity between the work and your previous employment, how much the position pays, and the distance between the job site and your residence. However, as time goes on, you will be expected to modify your standards and consider accepting work that requires less skill or that pays lower wages.

You must conduct a reasonable search for work, which means contacting at least four employers each week. You should keep a record of your job search efforts, including the employers you have contacted, the dates you made contact, and the outcome. The DEW may contact you or your employer contacts to verify your efforts.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina

Your weekly benefit amount will be approximately 50% of your average weekly wage during your base period, subject to a weekly minimum of $42 and a maximum of $326. Benefits are available for up to 20 weeks. For an estimate of your weekly benefit, use the DEW’s Benefits Estimator.

How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina

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 https://www.dew.sc.gov/claim-guide.asp. Once you file, you must continue to file weekly claims with the DEW for each week for which you are claiming benefits.

Once it receives your application, the DEW will send you some documents, including a notice which will indicate your potential benefit amount and duration.

How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in South Carolina

If your claim for unemployment is denied, you have ten days to file a Request for Reconsideration with the Appeal Tribunal. Your request for appeal must be in writing (letter format is fine) and mailed or faxed to the DEW’s Appeals Division.

After receiving your appeal request, the Appeal Tribunal will schedule a hearing, either by telephone or in person. An administrative hearing officer will conduct the hearing and receive evidence from both you and your employer. After considering the evidence, the hearing officer will issue a written decision. If you disagree with the hearing officer’s decision, you may appeal to the Appellate Panel within ten days. And, if you disagree with the Appellate Panel’s decision, you may file an appeal with the South Carolina Administrative Law Court within 30 days.

The DEW provides additional information on the unemployment process at its website, https://www.dew.sc.gov/claim-guide.asp (select "Claimants" to apply for benefits online, find out current eligibility requirements and benefit amounts, learn about the appeals process, and much more).

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