Collecting Unemployment Benefits in the Event of a Temporary Layoff

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 What is a Temporary Layoff?

A temporary layoff may refer to when an employer removes staff employees from their jobs for a certain period of time. A temporary layoff may occur for a number of different reasons, such as:

  • When a job is only intended to be a seasonal position;
  • If the company is undergoing construction or renovations;
  • When an employer is in financial trouble and is forced to reduce their labor costs for a short amount of time; and/or
  • If the weather renders the work impossible (e.g., construction work during the winter), so that operations must be temporarily suspended.

This is in direct contrast to permanent layoffs, which can happen when a company lacks work and/or profits and cannot afford to keep their entire workforce employed. For instance, if a particular branch of a company does not seem to be generating any revenue, then the company may decide to permanently lay off some workers or eliminate that entire branch.

Since March of 2020, many employers and workers have had to deal with temporary or permanent layoffs at various companies due to the pandemic. In some instances, a business may have permanently closed or went bankrupt. In which case, its employees would be permanently laid off. On the other hand, some companies opted to temporarily stop operations and therefore only had to temporarily suspend some of their workers.

This has led to many workers losing healthcare benefits as well as wages or a salary, which in turn, has caused the number of applications to collect unemployment benefits to spike.

Additionally, given the impact of the pandemic, many workers who normally would not be granted unemployment benefits can now receive them. This is due to temporary federal and state regulations that have been put in place to deal with the national crisis at hand.

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

As previously discussed, the pandemic has caused an unprecedented number of workers to apply for unemployment benefits. Some workers were permanently laid off, while others are still awaiting a decision from their company as to whether their temporary layoff period will convert to a permanent one.

In addition, the pandemic has also made it possible for workers who normally are not allowed to collect unemployment benefits, such as independent contractors and those who are self-employed, to receive them. Under the CARES Act of 2020, if an individual was temporarily or permanently laid off from their job because of the coronavirus, then they may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits from the state in which they work.

Depending on the laws of a particular state, an individual is usually permitted to collect unemployment benefits during the period in which they are temporarily laid off if their employer is not already paying them in full for a mandated layoff period. This may be true even in instances where a business regularly plans for seasonal layoffs. Such a scenario is very common in some states like Alaska.

In other states, however, if an individual is given the opportunity to work somewhere else, such as a different branch of their company, and they reject their employer’s offer, then it could mean forfeiting their right to collect unemployment benefits for that time frame.

Similarly, if an individual declines their employer’s offer to pay them for the time that they are temporarily laid off, then they will not be able to collect any unemployment benefits. The reason for this is because an individual who collects unemployment benefits when their employer had already offered to pay them will be considered to be committing an act of employment fraud.

Committing employment fraud is a very serious matter that can result in both criminal and civil penalties.

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

In general, it usually does not make a difference as to whether or not an individual volunteered to be laid off when it comes to collecting unemployment benefits.

The lone exception would be if the individual volunteered to be laid off for personal reasons, rather than for the purposes of benefitting their company. Some examples of scenarios wherein an individual may volunteer to be laid off by an employer include when:

  • They want to return to school;
  • They want to get married and need extended time off; and/or
  • They wish to become self-employed.

Can I Extend My Unemployment Benefits?

If an individual was granted unemployment benefits when they were initially laid off and the length of their layoff period gets extended, then they should not encounter any issues if they request to receive an extension of their unemployment benefits as well.

If the layoff becomes permanent, however, then whether an individual can extend their unemployment benefits will largely depend on the reasons as to why the layoff became a permanent situation.

For example, if the reason the layoff became permanent was the same as the original reason for the temporary layoff (e.g., the company was downsizing), then there should not be a conflict over whether the employee can continue to collect their unemployment benefits.

On the other hand, if the layoff situation becomes permanent because the individual either voluntarily quit their job or due to some other form of misconduct on their part, then collecting 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 unemployment benefits. There are certain scenarios provided in the employment laws enacted in each state that instruct when it may be appropriate to grant an exception for unemployment benefits as well as what types of unemployment benefits the individual can collect based on their circumstances.

If an individual has voluntarily left their job for a particular personal reason, then it may be in their best interest to speak with a local employment lawyer about the matter. A lawyer will be able to offer legal guidance on how the individual may be able to resolve their unemployment benefit issues.

Can I Collect Unemployment if the Layoff was Due to COVID-19 Conditions?

According to current federal law, an individual who is laid off due to COVID-19 conditions will be permitted to collect unemployment benefits.

To clarify, this means that individuals who were temporarily laid off from work, had their hours reduced, or if there was a lack of demand to employ them due to COVID-19 conditions, will be able to receive unemployment benefits during their specified layoff period.

In addition, employees who suffer permanent layoff conditions will also be eligible to collect unemployment benefits if they were laid off as a result of COVID-19.

What if My Hours Were Reduced Due to COVID-19?

As mentioned above, one of the primary effects of the pandemic is that it resulted in businesses temporarily shutting down or permanently closing. As such, many workers were subjected to permanent and temporary layoff periods.

Generally speaking, if an individual has had their hours reduced at work due to COVID-19 conditions, then they will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. The amount of unemployment benefits they can collect and the period for which they may collect them for, however, will primarily depend on individual state employment laws.

Another factor that the state will consider is whether an employer is still paying the individual some form of wages during this reduction period, and if so, the amount of those wages. In many cases, workers whose hours were reduced due to COVID-19 may only receive a partial amount of unemployment compensation.

Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer About My Layoff?

Since the laws and procedures regarding the collection of unemployment benefits can vary significantly from state to state, it is generally recommended that persons facing such issues consult a local workers compensation lawyer for further legal guidance.

An experienced workers compensation lawyer will be able to discuss the relevant laws that may apply in your state and can advise you on the different options that may be available to you for collecting your unemployment benefits. Your lawyer can also assist you in appealing a decision or amending your paperwork if your claim for unemployment benefits has been rejected or denied.

Those who intend to hire a lawyer to resolve errors with an application for unemployment benefits or to help them file an appeal should not delay in finding the right employment lawyer to take their case. Otherwise, you may miss the opportunity to appeal a decision since an appeal will need to be filed within 20 days from the date the original decision was issued.

In addition, your attorney can also inform you of your rights as a worker under the law and can discuss other options for legal recourse, such as initiating a class action lawsuit against an employer if you and your colleagues were fired or punished for participating in a strike or walk out.


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