Below are the most common questions our clients have about Unemployment Benefits when they call us. If you need additional information use the Contact Us form above or call us for a free consultation!
1. What is the unemployment process like in New Jersey?
When you first become unemployed, you can open a claim for benefits with the New Jersey Department of Labor. Most of the time, you will receive a notice in the mail soon after you apply, notifying you that you have a telephone hearing scheduled with a claims examiner. At that hearing, you (and your employer if they answer the phone) will be asked questions about your last job and the reason for separation. You will become aware of that decision usually within one week. It is wise to have attorney representation at your initial telephone hearing because if you say the wrong thing, you could be disqualified for benefits. It is better to give yourself the best chances to win from the beginning. I charge an affordable flat fee for representation at this Fact Finding interview.
If you win, the employer has seven days to appeal. If you lose, you have seven days to appeal. If the decision is appealed, it could be months before you receive a notice scheduling you for your next hearing, called an Appeal Tribunal. At that hearing, the examiner will ask you (and your employer if they choose to call in) questions about your job and the reason for separation. You will become aware of that decision within one week. It is wise to have attorney representation at your Appeal Tribunal hearing because the Appeal Tribunal is your chance to make sure the claims examiner hears your side of the story and understands why you deserve benefits. Your attorney is able to cross-examine the employer, ask you questions to get your points across, and make a closing statement on your behalf.
If either you or your employer decide to appeal that decision, the next steps are the Board of Review and the Appellate Division. These processes are much more complicated than the first two hearings and require full legal briefs and research, for which you almost always need an attorney to have a chance at winning.
2. Why was I disqualified for unemployment benefits?
Employees are disqualified for unemployment benefits for a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons is if an employee quits his employment with no good cause. The other most common reason is for the employee engaging in serious or gross misconduct. In many cases, an employer provides information to the Department of Labor that an employee was terminated based on misconduct. In this situation, many times an employee will be denied unemployment benefits and will need to file in appeal. While an employee can file an appeal on their own, it is always best to have the advice of a trained and experienced attorney in filing an appeal and in working your way through the administrative process in securing unemployment benefits.
In many cases, employers state that an employee was fired for misconduct and the facts do not support such a claim. Misconduct is defined as improper and intentional conduct directly connected with one's work. Generally, misconduct is some intentional or deliberate disregard for the rules and regulations that an employer has a right to enforce. Mistakes, negligence, or unintentional conduct do not generally support a determination that an employee has been terminated for misconduct. For this reason, it is important to have an attorney by your side during your unemployment hearings to make sure you emphasize that you were fired for poor performance, not for misconduct.
3. I was disqualified for benefits. What should I do now?
You can appeal the decision. The notice you got in the mail has instructions on how to appeal, including the time limit and who to contact. If you were disqualified, it is wise to have an attorney appeal for you and represent you in your appeal hearing to give you a better chance of not being disqualified again.
4. Can I get unemployment benefits if I was laid off?
In New Jersey, you can only collect unemployment if you lost your job through no fault of your own. In almost all cases, this means that if you get laid off (which means you were let go because your employer is no longer able to pay you), you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits. In fact, if you indicate in your initial application for unemployment that you were laid off, you will usually start collecting benefits without even having to go through one hearing.
5. Can I get unemployment benefits if I was fired?
In New Jersey, you can only collect unemployment if you lost your job through no fault of your own. In most cases, this means that if you get fired for a reason that was your fault, you cannot collect unemployment benefits. However, if you feel like you were fired unfairly, or that you did not do anything wrong to deserve losing your job, be sure to mention that in your unemployment hearings. It is always wise to have an attorney represent you to make sure that the unemployment claims examiner understands that you were not fired through any fault of your own. If you are denied benefits for being fired, you can always appeal the decision.
6. Can I get unemployment benefits if I quit or resigned?
In New Jersey, you cannot receive unemployment benefits if you voluntarily quit unless it was for good cause attributable to the work. If you are having problems with your employer and are considering quitting, you should always contact an attorney first for advice on the best way to do so to make sure your rights are protected. If you are in a hostile work environment, or otherwise feel like you have to quit for a very good reason such as a threat to your health or safety, you should contact me first so you understand the best course of action.
7. If my unemployment benefits are on hold or are awaiting appeal, should I keep claiming every week?
YES! You are only eligible to collect your unemployment benefits for the weeks that you submit your claim. Even if your claim is on hold, awaiting appeal, or even if you're not sure what your status is, keep claiming every week!
8. I got a notice in the mail for the first time saying I have an interview with a claims examiner. What does that mean?
This notice is telling you the date and time of your Fact Finding interview, which is your first hearing in the unemployment process. The claims examiner will call you at the number you have provided and will ask you detailed questions about your last job and the reason you are no longer working there. Your employer has the opportunity to take part in the call as well, and you may have the chance to respond to their statements. The claims examiner is looking for reasons to disqualify you, such as a voluntary quit or misconduct related to the work. You should have an attorney represent you at your Fact Finding interview to make sure you say the right things and don't get tricked into saying something that could hurt you. An attorney can also ask you and your employer questions to make sure that the claims examiner gets to hear the side of the story that sounds the best for you.
9. I got a notice in the mail saying I have a telephone Appeal Tribunal scheduled. What do I need to do?
This notice is telling you the date and time of your Appeal Tribunal. You have received this notice because either you or your employer has appealed the decision of the Fact Finding. If you won the Fact Finding and have been collecting benefits, and your employer appealed, you will continue to collect benefits unless the Appeal Tribunal examiner decides that you are disqualified, at which point you will be asked to pay back all of your benefits received so far. At the Appeal Tribunal, YOU NEED TO CALL HALF AN HOUR BEFORE THE HEARING TO CHECK IN. The examiner will then call you back at the hearing time. This is different than the Fact Finding interview, at which you did not have to check in. The questions asked are similar to those asked at the Fact Finding interview and your employer is permitted to take part in the hearing again. You should have an attorney represent you at your Appeal Tribunal hearing to make sure you say the right things and don't get tricked into saying something that could hurt you. An attorney can also ask you and your employer questions to make sure that the claims examiner gets to hear the side of the story that sounds the best for you.
10. Can I get a part-time job while collecting unemployment?
Yes. The Department of Labor wants to encourage employees to work part-time while they are unemployed and looking for full-time work. You are permitted to make up to 20% of your weekly benefit rate without having any of your benefits deducted. For example, if you receive the weekly maximum benefits of $624, you are permitted to make 20% of that amount, or roughly $124, working part time. Therefore, you are permitted to make $124 in part-time work and collect $624 in unemployment for a total of about $748 per week. If you make more than 20% of your weekly benefit rate, your unemployment benefits will be deducted dollar for dollar based on the amount that you made in your part-time work.
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