A temporary layoff is when an employer removes its staff employees from their jobs for a certain amount of time. A temporary layoff may occur for a variety of reasons, including:

  • When the job is only a seasonal position;
  • If the workplace is undergoing construction or renovations;
  • If weather conditions render the work impossible (e.g., construction work during the winter), so that operations have to be temporarily suspended; and
  • Sometimes when an employer is in a financial bind and has to reduce labor costs for a short amount of time.

Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits If I Have Been Laid off Temporarily?

Depending on the laws of a state, a person may be able to collect unemployment benefits during the time period in which they are laid off if their employer is not already paying them for the mandatory time off period. 

This may be true even for cases where a business regularly conducts seasonal layoffs. Such a scenario is common in certain states such as Alaska.

In some states, however, if a person is given the opportunity to work someplace else, such as another branch of their company, and they reject that opportunity it could mean forfeiting their right to collect unemployment benefits for that time period. 

Similarly, if an individual declines their employer’s offer to pay them for the time that they are laid off, then they will not be able to collect unemployment benefits. 

The reason for this is because a person who collects unemployment benefits when their employer already offered to pay them, or alternatively, if they had the option to work at another branch of the company, it will be considered an act of employment fraud. 

Committing employment fraud is a very serious matter and can result in facing criminal charges. 

Does It Make a Difference If I Volunteered for the Layoff?

It generally does not make a difference whether or not a person volunteered to be laid off, in regard to unemployment collection purposes.

The only exceptions would be if the person volunteered to be laid off for personal reasons, as opposed for the purpose of benefiting their company. Some examples include when a person voluntarily asks to be laid off in order to return to school, to get married, or so that they can be self-employed.

Can I Extend My Unemployment Benefits?

If a person was granted unemployment benefits when they were initially laid off and the layoff time period gets extended, then it should not be a problem for them to receive an extension of their unemployment benefits as well.

If the layoff becomes permanent, however, it would depend on the reasons why the layoff became a permanent situation. For example, if the reasons were the same as the original reason for the temporary layoff (e.g., downsizing), then there should not be a dispute over whether the employee can continue to collect their unemployment benefits. 

On the other hand, if the layoff situation becomes permanent because the person either quit their job or due to some other form of misconduct on their part, then receiving unemployment benefits will no longer be an option for them. 

It is important to note that not all reasons for quitting will result in a denial of employee benefits. There are certain scenarios set out in every state’s employment laws that provide when it is appropriate to grant an exception for employee benefits and what types of benefits the individual should receive based on the situation.

If you happen to be an individual who quit for a specific personal reason, then you should speak with an employment lawyer about your situation. They will be able to give you guidance on the possible options you can take to resolve your issue. 

What Happens If There is a Strike?

In the event that there is an employee strike, only the workers who attempted to cross the picket line, but were refused entry, will be able to apply for unemployment benefits. In other words, employees who decide to join the strike, do so at their own cost.

Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer About My Temporary Layoff?

Since the laws on this issue can be quite complex and can vary significantly from state to state, you should strongly consider speaking to a local employment attorney about your matter.

An experienced employment attorney will be able to give you advice about the laws that apply in your state, can tell you how to go about collecting your benefits, and if your claim for unemployment benefits has been denied, they can help you appeal that decision. 

An appeal must be filed within 20 days, however, which is why you should not delay in contacting an attorney. 

Additionally, an employment attorney will be able to explain your rights and legal options if you are a worker who participated in an employee strike.