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A Guide To Unemployment Benefit Claims in California

Updated: Nov 17

Here's what you need to know about California Unemployment Insurance that you should familiarize yourself with in preparation for the impending economic recession.


Losing your job and, subsequently, your income can be difficult. In California, you might still be qualified for unemployment benefits. You are well within your right to fight back when these protocols are violated. You might also want to take a step back and think about whether you've been fired legally in the first place.

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How To File For California Unemployment Benefits?

You might be eligible for unemployment compensation if you were laid off in California owing to the coronavirus epidemic or for any other reason.


Employees temporarily out of work due to no fault of their own may be eligible for unemployment compensation in California, as in every other state. However, qualifying restrictions, past earnings requirements, benefit levels, and other criteria differ by state.


Requirements for Filing California Unemployment Claim


To receive unemployment benefits in California, you must complete three requirements:

  • You must meet minimum earnings requirements in the past.

  • According to California law, you must be unemployed for no fault.

  • You must be capable, available, and looking for a job.


Do You Have Enough Money to Meet the Minimum Wage Requirement? Almost all states look at your recent job history and wages over one year to calculate your unemployment eligibility. The base period in California, like in most jurisdictions, usually is within the first four of the five complete calendar quarters from when you filed your benefits claim. For example, the base period for a lawsuit filed in July 2020 would be April 1, 2019, through March 31, 2020.


You must have earned at least during the base period:

  • In your highest-paid quarter, you earn $1,300.

  • $900 in your highest-paid quarter and at least 1.25 times your high-quarter earnings for the whole base period.

Are you unemployed due to no fault of your own? To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be unemployed due to no fault. It indicates that you must have left your previous position due to a lack of employment opportunities in the area.


Getting Unemployment Benefits After a Lay-off. You will meet this particular condition if you are laid off, lose your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or are "downsized" for economic reasons.


Receiving Unemployment Benefits After Being Fired


You should be able to claim benefits if you were fired because you lacked the skills to execute the job or weren't a suitable fit. You might not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are fired for misconduct. Only if all four of the following facts are true would you be ineligible for unemployment benefits in California:


The employer owes you a "material" responsibility.

  • You breached that responsibility significantly (in other words, you failed to accomplish it).

  • A minor or one-time infraction will not prohibit you from obtaining assistance.

  • Your failure to perform the task demonstrated a purposeful or wanton contempt for it.

  • Put another way; you weren't just careless or thoughtless; you deliberately broke the duty or showed a reckless disregard for the repercussions of your breach. Inefficiency, inability to execute the work, or honest mistakes in judgment do not meet these criteria and will not disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits in California.

  • Failure to comply with the duty must be detrimental to the employer's business interests.

Will I Be Able To Collect Unemployment Benefits After Quitting A Job?


If you willingly quit your job, you won't be eligible for unemployment benefits unless you have a valid reason for doing so, which means that a reasonable individual who genuinely desired a job would have left under similar conditions. You would be qualified for unemployment benefits if you had good cause connected to your job (such as illegal discrimination, harassment, hazardous working conditions, or employer fraud). In this case, you must have taken reasonable steps to rectify the matter before resigning, which means you must have discussed the issue with your employer and given the employer a reasonable length of time to correct the problem before resigning.

Suppose you quit your job for compelling family or health reasons; for example, you are facing domestic violence, you need to relocate to be with your spouse, or you need to care for a seriously ill family member. In that case, you will almost certainly be found to have reasonable cause to quit and will be eligible for unemployment benefits.


Are You Available And Looking For Work?

To keep your unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, willing to take a job, and actively looking for work. You must take an appropriate position if it is offered to you.


Usually, you must perform a reasonable job search and demonstrate that you did so (on your benefits claim). During the COVID-19 epidemic, the EDD temporarily suspended this active-search requirement. You should maintain track of the employers you've contacted, the dates you got them, and the results at all times. The EDD may request this information.

How Do I Register and Apply for A California Unemployment Insurance?

The states handle and pay unemployment insurance claims through tens of thousands of locations across the country. Long lines, overburdened personnel, heaps of paperwork—all are heading your way at an emotionally trying moment. Keep in mind that all you're doing is exercising your legal right. And be prepared to wait.


The recent economic slump has resulted in a relaxation of unemployment eligibility rules and an increase in unemployment compensation. In addition to cash benefits, most unemployment offices also provide job search services such as job fairs and websites, as well as seminars on topics ranging from resume writing and interviewing techniques to career planning and skill training.

Another advantage over previous years is that you can apply for unemployment benefits over the phone, via the internet, or by mailing or faxing a form; you are not required to apply in person.


In most states, there will be a one-week waiting period between filing for unemployment benefits and being able to collect them. However, it is still advisable that you contact your local unemployment office as soon as possible once you lose your work. You can then provide all relevant information, submit the relevant documentation, and persuade agency staff to investigate your claim—all of the preliminary steps required to start the bureaucratic process.


Consider one of our prescreened Employment Lawyers in Los Angeles in your California Attorney Search.


Documentation Required to File an Unemployment Claim

If you bring the required documents to the local office or have them accessible when applying by phone or online, your unemployment claim will be processed faster. The following are the documents you'll need to file for an unemployment claim:

  • Your company uses recent pay stubs and other salary documents, such as the W-2 form, to report your earnings to the IRS.

  • Copy of your Social Security ID or another document with your Social Security number

  • Any proof of unemployment you have, such as a lay-off or dismissal notification from your company, and, if you know it, your company's unemployment insurance account number

An unemployment insurance claims office typically requires some form of orientation, ranging from simple explanation brochures to complex video presentations or live group lectures. Compliance is required.



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Watch Your Wording


One of the first things you will have to put down on your unemployment paperwork is some iteration of "Explain in your own words why you left your previous work". Long explanations will be difficult to fit within the form. Take the hint and respond in an elusive and straightforward manner.


  • Avoid using the term "fired" in filling out documents or answering any questions at the unemployment insurance office unless you were fired because of something you did wrong. Several undefined terms are used to describe the termination of work, but being "fired" is most commonly understood to suggest that you made a mistake and were fired as a result.

  • If your employer laid you off because business was slow, note it. "Laid off" is a similarly ambiguous expression, but it is less likely to create doubts about your claim's authenticity.

  • If you were fired from your job, write "Discharged without any misbehavior" or "Quit for a good cause" on your termination letter. Remove all qualifiers, such as "My boss has disliked me since the first day I stepped in. Thus I was the first to be laid off."

Review of Unemployment Claims


After submitting your completed forms, the rituals differ slightly from state to state. You could be interviewed the same day, told to return for an interview, or just sent a check. If you need to go back, make sure you have your documents with you.


Whatever method is used in your area, the purpose is to determine whether you can be qualified for benefits and, if so, how much you are entitled to. The interviewer will most likely focus on why you left your previous position. Keep your explanations as brief and impartial as possible while yet being helpful.


In some states, you might be qualified for benefits right away. If your employer challenges the award later, you should continue receiving those benefits while your appeal is resolved.

While your claim is being verified, you will most likely be required to visit the unemployment insurance office once every week or two or sign a statement that will be mailed to you certifying that you still fit all of the program's legal requirements—and that you are seeking new employment. Even before obtaining unemployment benefits, it is critical to comply with this reporting requirement. If you have not yet received any unemployment benefits, you will normally be paid after the fact for all the previous weeks for which you did qualify, provided your claim is verified.

After your claim is confirmed and your benefit level is decided, you will normally get your unemployment check in the mail every two weeks if your claim is granted.

Unemployment Benefits and Their Tax Consequences

Unlike workers' compensation benefits, unemployment insurance benefits are taxed as income. Many states, however, will not deduct any taxes from your unemployment benefit check because the benefit amounts paid are frequently below the taxable yearly earning limit. On the other hand, the state will record the number of unemployment benefits you received to the IRS and your state taxing authorities.


If you receive unemployment benefits when you start a new job, you may want to increase the amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck by your employer. Otherwise, you may be disappointed at tax time when you discover that you owe more tax or receive a smaller refund than expected.

Getting Your Unemployment Benefits Continued

Once you've been approved for unemployment benefits, you can't just sit back and wait for the checks to arrive each week. To keep them flowing, you must continue to follow the state program's rules and rituals.


As often as your state demands, you must go to the unemployment insurance office or fill out the required paperwork. You must confirm that you are still unemployed but available for work, that you are physically capable of working, and that you are actively looking for a job regularly. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some states have postponed these requirements.) The paperwork you sign will typically ask you to attest that you continue to meet these standards, and lying about your answers is usually a criminal violation.


Unemployment insurance cannot compel you to work in a field or earn a wage significantly different from your previous employment. However, because these ranges are open to interpretation, use caution when determining where to apply for a new job. Local job ads are maintained and posted by several unemployment insurance offices. To avoid having your unemployment insurance claim terminated because you refused to take substitute employment, only apply for positions similar to your typical work and pay levels.

What Is the Best Place to File for Unemployment Benefits?


You must file your unemployment benefits claim in the state where you lived and worked. You can claim your new state if you become unemployed in one state and then relocate to another. On the other hand, your benefits will be governed by the laws of your former state. Although your new state manages your claim, the cost of your benefits is billed to the state where you lost your job. A move can also lengthen the time it takes to complete your claim, usually by several weeks.


Remember that you must still complete all the unemployment insurance plan conditions to be eligible for benefits, even if you relocate. Your new location must be where you were forced to relocate due to family circumstances or where you may reasonably anticipate obtaining new employment.


For example, you decided to move to a small seacoast town with virtually no economic activity because you like the scenery there. You suddenly quit your previous job for no other reason. In this case, you can't expect to be eligible for unemployment benefits when you arrive at your new home and can't find work.