[by Amanda Wilks]
A common misconception regarding Unemployment Insurance is that you cannot apply for benefits if you were fired. Not necessarily true. There are several reasons for which you could get fired and, in most cases, still qualify.
Reasons for Getting Fired
a) Your employer may decide to fire you if you perform poorly on the job.
Which does not necessarily have to be your fault. If the job description was not properly explained when you first applied or you simply find out the job does not suit you, your employer may be the first to take action before you have a chance to look for something else.
b) The company may decide to shift its focus
The focus may get shifted towards an area you have neither experience in, nor the time to learn. Your employer is then forced, for the good of the many, to part ways with you.
c) The company may need to reduce its cost and personnel just to stay afloat
Not surprisingly at all in this economy, to stay afloat, a company may need to push towards cost cutting measures and for whatever reason, you are the one that has to leave.
d) The one reason that will always disqualify you from benefits is getting fired for misconduct (a.k.a terminated for cause).
If this is the reason, clearly stated on your termination papers, the first thing you need to do is start looking for a new job immediately.
What Not to do After Getting Fired
Do not, under any circumstances, let the disappointment and anger you will feel take over. Don’t start sending angry emails to your colleagues and your boss and don’t make a scene when you receive the news. While this will bring some short-term satisfaction, you will regret it further down the line and it will hurt your unemployment compensation application efforts.
You may also need recommendations from your boss or colleagues for your next job. Don’t burn the bridges you’ve worked hard to build because of this setback.
If offered a severance agreement, take a good look at it before you sign it. While the money it offers could be tempting, your employer will be release from any legal claims and you may want to make. If the legal writing in it confuses you, as it does for most of us, a very good idea is to take the agreement to a lawyer and have it explained. You can also try to negotiate better terms.
The Application Process
Apply right away! Same day if you can. You don’t need anything to submit your initial application and it can be done as easily as picking up the phone and calling the American Job Center and asking for the TeleBenefits number. You can also submit your application online.
Once you’ve done that, you will receive a letter asking you to participate in a hearing with a fact finder. The hearing can be held over the phone as well and the letter will contain the time and date for it. If you know you will not be available at that time, call back right away and ask for it to be rescheduled. Swift action is the key.
The hearing will be a 3-way-call with you and your boss. Do not be intimidated by that. Your boss is in the same position as you are, and will be there to explain why you were fired. You will, of course, have a chance to make contradictions and additions if he or she is not being fair or accurate, but do so in an elegant and organized manner.
The fact finder will be the one to lead that discussion and, at the end of the hearing, he will read his report to the both of you. Pay close attention to the report and ask for anything inaccurate or unclear to be fixed. You will not have another chance to have the report modified.
Use these discussions to get yourself into an interview mindset. You won’t live off benefits forever and will need to start looking for a new job soon. Some of the questions or at least the way they are asked by the fact finder may be similar to what an interviewer looks for in your answers.
What to do if You Get Rejected
If at the end of the hearing, the fact finder decides you do not qualify for unemployment benefits, you can appeal. This means a new hearing will be held, this time in person, with a referee present to review your case. This second meeting will focus on the reason the fact finder decided to reject your application and is your chance to add any new information you forgot or found in the meantime.
You can appeal online, at www.ctdol.state.ct.us/appeals/apfrmnt.htm, or send a letter to the Appeals Division. Include your personal information, the date of the first hearing and why you think the fact finder made a mistake. Also, keep a copy of the letter for your own records, just in case. Within 30 days, the Appeals Division will send you a letter telling you the date, time, and place of your next hearing as well as the exact issue that will be discussed.
This second meeting will be a lot more formal, with the referee asking everyone to swear to tell the truth. He or she will review your case, discuss only the issue stated in the letter you’ve received and allow you to add anything else relevant to the case. This will be your very last chance to do that, so be prepared.
During the hearing stay calm and do not speak out of turn. While it will not be a court hearing, treat it as such. Be polite when the referee asks you to speak, be truthful, and do not talk about anything you were not asked about. And, if you feel you did not understand something, say it and ask for an explanation. It is your right after all.
Start building your resume for your next job right away. Convince your former employer to speak well on your behalf, and give you a recommendation letter explaining the reasons you were fired and, if that was the case, how that was not your fault. Sincerity is appreciated by a new employer and not mentioning you were fired will make you seem untrustworthy and shift the blame on you. While there is a chance a new employer never finds out, more often than not they do.
Remember to keep filing your claims during all of this. If you are successful, you will only get money for the weeks you filed a claim.