4. What are the requirements?
An unemployed worker filing a claim for unemployment benefits is called the claimant. There are numerous factors which determine if the claimant qualifies to receive unemployment benefits. Here we will look at the process of claiming benefits as well as the criteria that the UIA looks at once a claim is presented to them. Why are some claims not accepted? We will consider the possible reasons for that in one of the paragraphs below.
Before any benefits are awarded to a claimant, the UIA considers certain criteria and asks the following questions:
• Determine the base period - Has the claimant received the minimum amount of wages necessary to qualify for unemployment benefits?
• Determine eligibility - According to the Act, can the claimant receive unemployment benefits?
• Disqualification - Is there a reason why the claimant may not receive unemployment benefits?
The claimant has to pass the criteria of these three questions before the UIA will award Michigan unemployment Compensation benefits. If a claimant does not satisfy one or more of these conditions, then the claim will be unsuccessful and no benefits will be awarded. Let us discuss the base period, eligibility and disqualification criteria in greater detail.
4.1. Base period criteria
A claimant can only collect unemployment benefits if enough money was earned in his/her recent work history. The claimant cannot collect benefits if he/she has worked very little during the past year. Therefore a claimant should have both worked and also earned enough to qualify for any unemployment benefits. The UIA looks at new claims to determine whether the claimant has earned enough base period wages to receive unemployment benefits. One year is considered to be the base period, representing the four calendar quarters that occurred before the claim was filed.
To make a decision about a claim, the claimant must satisfy one of the following criteria:
• High Quarter - The claimant earned minimum wages amounting to at least $2,871 in a minimum of one of the base period quarters
• Earnings Qualifier - The claimant earned total base period wages totalling at minimum 1.5 times the wages earned in the high quarter or a minimum of $4,306.50
• Alternate Earnings Qualifier - The claimant earned wages in a minimum of two quarters while having total base period wages of minimum 20 times Michigan state's average weekly wage. At present it is 20 times $823.35 or $16,467
The claimant qualifies for unemployment benefits only if one or more of these criteria are satisfied. The UIA then determines the claimant's benefit which is a maximum of $362 per week at present. The UIA also determines the length of time the claimant is eligible for unemployment benefits. The current maximum period is 26 weeks. State extended benefits or federal emergency benefits are not included.
4.2. Eligibility criteria
The claimant should satisfy eligibility criteria as well as having adequate base period wages. Here are the criteria a claimant must satisfy so the UIA is satisfied:
• The claim must be filed on time
• Claimant must register with the Michigan Works once a claim is filed
• Employee must be capable of working
• Worker must be available for either full-time or other suitable work
• Claimant should be looking for a new job
• Report to the UIA when required
• Claimant is required to take part in reemployment activities
The claimant will not receive unemployment benefits if the criteria mentioned above are not satisfied. This is true even when a claimant has earned sufficient base period wages qualifying him/her for unemployment benefits. The claimant provides the information the UIA uses to establish whether he/she meets the demands of eligibility.
The employer also has the option to challenge the eligibility of a claimant. For illustration, an employer may find out that the claimant was offered another job by the employer but did not want to accept the job offer. The employer will be able to contact the UIA and explain the situation. The UIA might respond by stopping the claimant's unemployment benefits since he/she has lost eligibility by refusing to accept a suitable full-time job offer.
4.3. Disqualification criteria
An unemployment claim may be rejected even when a claimant has enough base period wages and is eligible according to the criteria. The most common reasons why a claimant might still be prohibited from receiving unemployment benefits are described in the paragraphs below.
4.3.1. Quitting voluntarily
If an employee quits a job voluntarily, the individual cannot receive unemployment benefits. The employee must have left the job entirely by his/her own choice to be disqualified from collecting unemployment benefits. If the employee is given the choice of being discharged or resigning by the employer, the employee may still file a claim to receive benefits. The UIA might decide that the resignation was not entirely voluntary.
An employee who quits a job may under certain circumstances still file a successful claim. The employee has to show that the resignation is can be directly attributed to the employer. Some possible reasons for having a good cause against the employer are:
• A large reduction of the work duties, working hours, pay or benefits
• The employer causes a big change in the commuting distance to work
• Bad job conditions such as verbal or physical abuse or endangering the health and safety of the employee
• Sexual harassment
Conflicts and disagreements between the employee and other co-workers do not count as a good cause to leave a job and seek unemployment benefits. An employee that resigns a job due to a dislike of a co-worker or supervisor should not receive benefits from the UIA. An employee may find it difficult to establish good cause for voluntary resignation if he/she failed to give the employer a notice or an opportunity to solve the specific problem at work. The employer might be afforded an opportunity to solve the alleged problem and still fail to do so. Please note that the alleged problem may not be severe enough to warrant the resignation of an employee and therefore a claim for unemployment benefits may be rejected.
4.3.2. A discharge for misconduct
An employee that is discharged from work by an employer for work-related misconduct cannot receive unemployment benefits from the UIA. There is a difference between what would be considered as misconduct in the everyday working environment and what the UIA considers to be misconduct. The UIA limits employee misconduct to willful and significant violations of company rules, conduct showing a clear disregard for the legitimate interests of the employer or disregard for work-related responsibilities and duties. Listed below are a few examples of employee behavior that may or may not be considered misconduct by the UIA.
Examples of behavior that is considered to be misconduct for unemployment purposes:
• Alcohol possession, consumption or intoxication at work
• Drug possession, usage or intoxication while working
• A single incident where the employee intentionally violates an important standard or rule
• Multiple incidents of misconduct where the last incident shows a willful contempt of the employer's rules
• Falsifying company records
• Serious insubordination
Examples of behavior that do not count as misconduct for unemployment purposes:
• Actions that are not related to the job
• Bad job performance
• Good-faith mistakes in making decisions
• Incapable or unable to satisfy the requirements of the job
• Unintentional negligence in isolated incidents
Please note that there are legally valid reasons for discharging an employee that are not considered misconduct for unemployment benefit purposes. If a claimant receives unemployment benefits it does not automatically mean that the discharge was unlawful. Keep in mind that employees who behaved badly may also manage to receive unemployment benefits.
4.3.3. Failure to go back to work after being recalled
An employee will stop receiving unemployment benefits if the unemployed individual is recalled and chooses not to go back to work. Workers that have been discharged but recalled should go back to work. If they fail to turn up on time they will not receive any more unemployment benefits onward from the date of recall.
4.3.4. Discharge for absences due to incarceration
An incarceration in jail leading to the subsequent discharge of an employee by an employer because he/she was not present at work means a disqualification from receiving unemployment benefits. It is necessary for the claimant to have been convicted as well as sentenced to jail. The claimant will not be disqualified if the jail sentence was for a traffic violation and the employee was absent for less than ten days.
4.3.5. Assault and battery in the workplace
A claimant can be stopped from receiving benefits if he/she was laid off because of assaulting someone at work. The assault must be proven by the employer by a "convincing preponderance of evidence". It is not a valid defense to say that he/she was aggravated into attacking another individual at work. Should the claimant insist that the assault was done in self-defense, it may be seen as a valid defense.
4.3.6. Discharge due to employment related theft
An employee that is discharged because of theft in the workplace no longer qualifies to receive unemployment benefits. Remember that the employer has to prove that the employee intended to steal money or property from the workplace.
4.3.7. Discharge for deliberately destroying company property
When an employee is discharged on account of destroying company property on purpose the worker is disqualified from receiving any benefits. Prove must be given that the employee intended to destroy company property. A worker will not be disqualified if the property was destroyed by accident or through negligence.
4.3.8. Drug use disqualification
Discharging an employee for using drugs disqualifies him/her from receiving UIA benefits. The employer may have to provide proof that one or more of the following actions took place in order to facilitate drug use disqualification:
• The employee was in possession of illegal drugs or used such substances on the property of the employer
• The employee tested positive for illegal drug use when a drug test was done in a non-discriminatory manner
• The employee declined to do a drug test
The employee's drug test sample may have to be tested again if the employee refuses to accept the drug test results