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Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claimant Handbook icon of open book

Section 3 - Eligibility for UI

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DWD will review your initial claim application to determine if you are eligible for UI.

We look at three criteria:

  1. How much did you work in the 12 to 18 months before you filed your initial claim application?
  2. You must have earned sufficient wages in the 12 to 18 months prior to filing an initial claim application. If you did not earn enough wages, you will not be eligible for UI. Please see Qualifying Wages for more information about the qualifying wage requirements.

  3. Why are you no longer working for your past employer(s)?
  4. The reason you are no longer employed helps determine whether you can receive UI. Here are some examples of separation reasons that may qualify you or disqualify you from receiving UI. See Eligibility Issues for more information.

    You may receive UI if you:

    • Were laid off or your work hours were reduced because your employer did not have enough work for you,
    • Left your last job and can show it was for good cause,
      • Good cause is a valid, substantial reason for which the employer is responsible, and which left you with no reasonable alternative but to quit. An example is unsafe working conditions. For more information, please review Exceptions to the Standard Quit Disqualification.

    You may not receive UI if you:

  5. Are you able to and available for work?
  6. To be eligible for UI you must be:

    • Actively looking for work,
    • Mentally and physically able to work,
    • Legally authorized to work in the United States, and
    • Available to accept new work.
      • For example, you do not have personal responsibilities that would prevent you from working.

Eligibility Issues

If DWD needs to investigate your eligibility to receive UI, we will hold your UI benefit payments while we investigate. During this time, you must continue to file your weekly claim certifications.

You and your employer will be given the opportunity to present facts before we make a decision about your eligibility. You may get a telephone call, a form to complete and return, or notice of a scheduled interview as a part of our investigation. All investigations are conducted by telephone or letter. Respond to any request for information by the deadline stated on the request. If you do not provide information when directed, or miss a scheduled interview, we will decide if you are eligible for UI using the facts available and benefits may be denied.

If you are asked to call an investigator and are unable to reach them when you call their direct line, please leave a voicemail message. The investigator is helping another claimant, and they will return your call as soon as possible. You can help by leaving your name, phone number, and information about your availability for a call in your message.

If an interview is scheduled, you will receive a notice in the mail with the date and time of the interview. You should call the phone number on the notice as soon as possible if you need to reschedule the interview. Each interview is scheduled as early as possible. You are not able to request an earlier interview.

After the investigation is completed, we will notify you of the determination in writing. The reverse side of the determination mailed to you will include instructions for filing an appeal. If you disagree with the determination, you should appeal as soon as possible. For more information about appeals, see Appeals and Petitions.

If you or your employer appeal a determination continue to file your weekly claim certifications while you are unemployed or partially unemployed. If you win an appeal, you can only qualify for UI if you have filed weekly claim certifications. For more information about appealing a determination, please see Appeals and Petitions.

You do not get to choose which employer(s) you are claiming UI from. State law sets a formula for deciding which of your base period employers are charged for your UI, if any. Sometimes an investigation is needed to decide which employers are charged and the amount they are charged.

When you file your initial claim application or weekly claim certification, there are many issues that may affect your eligibility. They must be investigated when they arise.

For example, let's say you worked 10 years for XYZ Corporation and were laid off three months ago. XYZ Corporation is not disputing your eligibility for UI based on your separation from them.

After the layoff, you started working for ABC Corporation. ABC Corporation discharged you and you filed a claim for UI. At the time you filed the claim, ABC Corporation is not in your base period, and would not be charged for any UI paid to you.

However, if your discharge from ABC Corporation was for misconduct, you would not be eligible for UI until seven weeks after your discharge and until you earned 14 times your weekly benefit rate in wages from covered employment after your discharge from ABC.

Further, if your discharge was determined to be for misconduct, ABC Corporation would not be charged in the future if you qualified for UI and filed again later when ABC Corporation fell within your base period.

You will not receive UI if you:

  • Quit a job without good cause. You will not be eligible for UI until you earn wages equal to six times your weekly benefit rate. For more information, see Exceptions to the Standard Quit Disqualification.
  • Are fired for misconduct. The wages you earned from that employer cannot be used to qualify for UI. You will not be eligible for UI from other employers for seven weeks from the date of your termination, and until you earn wages equal to 14 times your weekly benefit rate.
  • Are fired for substantial fault. You will not be eligible for benefits for seven weeks from the date of your termination and until you earn wages equal to 14 times your weekly benefit rate.
  • Refuse work without good cause such as personal safety, unreasonable commuting distance, sincere religious beliefs, or other compelling reasons that would make accepting the offer unreasonable. If you refuse work without good cause, you will not be eligible for UI until you earn wages equal to at least six times your weekly benefit rate.
  • Fail to perform valid work searches for any week that they are required.
  • Are employed and miss work available to you during a week. The income you could have earned will be added to what you did earn to calculate the UI due to you. If you miss more than 16 hours of work in a week, you will not receive UI for that week.
  • Have 32 or more hours of any of the following: work, missed work, holiday, vacation, dismissal, termination, or sick pay for that week.
  • Are not able to work in a week or are unavailable for work in a week because your ability to work or availability for work is restricted. Reasons your ability to work or availability for work may be restricted include (but are not limited to) medical restrictions, a limit on the hours you can work, or travel or transportation restrictions.
  • Are outside the United States, a United States Territory, or Canada for more than 48 hours.
  • Are unemployed because of a strike or other labor dispute, other than a lockout. Employees who are not participating in the labor dispute, but become unemployed because of it, may also be ineligible. If you work in covered employment after the start of the strike and have qualifying wages based on that employment alone, you may be eligible for UI while the strike is in progress.
  • Work for a school only during the normal school year. You are ineligible for benefits based on school year employment during school vacation periods and between academic terms or years if you have reasonable assurance of returning to similar work after the vacation or at the start of the next term or year. We may pay UI during these periods only if you have qualifying wages for UI based on employment from other employers alone.
  • Are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. You cannot receive UI while you are receiving SSDI. You must report your SSDI benefits on your UI claims.
    • Note: You are not required to report your Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) benefits on your UI claim, and you can receive UI if you are receiving SSI benefits.
  • Have base period wages from a corporation that is owned or controlled by you or your immediate family. Your UI may be reduced. This may also apply to a partnership, depending on your relationship to the partners.

Filing for UI while a student: You must tell us if you are a student while you file claims for UI. An investigation will be conducted to determine whether you are available for work. You may not have to be available for work while attending school if you are enrolled in a course of study that is considered "approved training."

Verifying employment eligibility: Federal law requires all employers to verify the employment eligibility of new employees. When an employer hires you, the employer will require that you show certain documents to prove your identity and your employment eligibility. If you are unable to present documents to your employer, your employer must end your employment. Your failure to present the documents to your employer or to DWD may affect your eligibility for UI.

Updated: September 28, 2022