By Liz Swedock
Massive layoffs are not only coming, they are already here. Multiple news outlets are reporting that well over 52,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits in Connecticut over only the last few days (ordinarily it would be a few hundred over the same time period, so this is a massive increase).
So what are your options if you are terminated from your job or have your hours reduced? I’ll try to address some of the basic questions, however be aware that the state is actively considering potential modifications to these rules as the coronavirus / COVID-19 epidemic continues, so stay up to date.
Who is eligible for unemployment? If you have been fired, laid off, or had your hours reduced due to no fault of your own, odds are that you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits. This includes both salaried employees and hourly-basis employees. “Fault of your own” means that you lost your job due to your own “willful misconduct,” which includes things such as committing a crime at work, stealing from work, or failing a drug or alcohol test required by law. Eligibility requires you to be available for work, so if you are sick or otherwise unable to return to work, you might not be able to collect benefits.
If eligible, how much can you collect? In Connecticut, the maximum benefit is 26 weeks (6 months) and up to $642 per week. Your benefit amount is equal to the average amount you made over the highest two quarters in the previous year, divided by 26. Claims take about one week to get processed, but might take longer due to the currently unprecedent number of people filing for unemployment.
What if your hours have been reduced but you haven’t technically been fired – can you collect unemployment? Often, yes.
This is extremely important during the current COVID-19 crisis. The rule in Connecticut is that if an employee is not employed “to the same extent” that he or she was employed over the previous year, that individual can be eligible for unemployment. What is “not the same extent”? It’s not 100% clear. This determination will have to be made on a case-by-case basis. However, if your job has been suspended – including if you have been told by your employer to stay home and not come to work while not getting paid – you are likely eligible to collect unemployment.
If your hours have been reduced, but not eliminated, you can still be eligible for partial unemployment.
This includes if you worked more than one job and one (or both) jobs reduced your hours, or if you were a full-time employee and your employer changed you to part-time.
Lastly, if you are denied unemployment benefits, be aware that you will have the option to appeal. The Department of Labor is going to be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of current applicants, and we cannot expect them to be error-free. If you think you should have been granted benefits, don’t give up if you get denied.
For more information on whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits, you should review guidance issued by the Connecticut Department of Labor (CT DOL) on March 13, 2020, which is available here: http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us/DOLCOVIDFAQ.PDF .
The bottom line is don’t leave money on the table! If there is any chance that you are eligible to collect benefits, you should file a claim and be prepared to explain your individual situation. Claims can be filed online here: www.filectui.com . There is no penalty if you file a claim and it turns out you are not eligible.