Unemployment Compensation Article


Unemployment Compensation in Arizona

Unemployment compensation benefits (UC) are available to assist workers who become unemployed.  To be eligible for UC benefits, the unemployed worker must have lost their job through no fault of their own, have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before becoming unemployed, be able and available to work, and be actively seeking employment.

The worker who meets these requirements must apply to the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) and be found eligible to receive UC benefits. Once found eligible for UC benefits, the worker must keep their UC claim active by reporting by telephone to the UC office every week.

I. Applying for Benefits
An initial claim for UC benefits must be submitted to DES. DES does not have unemployment compensation offices.  To apply for UC benefits, an unemployed worker may apply online at https://extranet.azdes.gov/ders/ea/uiclaims. If the unemployed worker does not have computer access, the work can apply at a DES One-Stop Center or DES employment Service Office. To find a DES One-Stop Center or DES Employment Service office visit Arizona Job Connection web site(link is external)

When filing the initial claim for UC benefits, the unemployed worker needs to provide:

•    Their Social Security Number.
•    AZ Driver's License or AZ State Issued ID (Note: you may still complete your application without these two items).
•    Their mailing address, city, state and ZIP code.
•    The county where the worker resides if living in Arizona.
•    The names, addresses, and phone numbers of all the employers for the last 18 months.
•    The last day the worker worked immediately prior to filing your UI claim.
•    Any severance, vacation, holiday or payment for unused sick pay, the amount (before deductions), and the date paid.
•    Alien Registration Number, if applicable.
•    Copy # 4 of your DD Form 214 if released from the military in the last 18 months.
•    SF 8 or SF 50 if employed in Federal Civilian service in the last 18 months.
•    If you are collecting a pension (other than Social Security), you will need the start date of the pension and the monthly benefit amount.

After an application is submitted, a DES representative may contact both the unemployed worker (now known as the “claimant.”)  and the claimant’s last employer to determine the reason the claimant left their last employment.

 A Determination of Deputy letter will then be mailed stating whether the applicant is eligible for UC benefits.

If found eligible for UC benefits, there is a one-week waiting period. After that UC benefits are paid to the claimant on an Electronic Payment Card.  DES mails an Electronic Payment Card to claimants within a week after the initial application is processed.

IMPORTANT An eligible claimant must continue to apply for UI benefits each week to show that one is actively seeking work. The weekly certification is filed on line. If the claimant does not have access to a computer the claimant should ask DES to mail UB-106-A-forms to the claimant.  The claimant must then complete a UB-106-A form back to DES each week.  Because mail is slower than the internet, mailing the UB-106-A forms will probably result in a delay of UC benefit payments. 

If DES determine the claimant is ineligible for benefits, the claimant can file an appeal.  This appeal process is explained later in this paper.

II. Eligibility for Benefits

A.    Unemployed Through No Fault of Your Own
UC benefits are available to claimants who become unemployed through “no fault of their own.” A.R.S. § 23-601. An employee loses his job for one of three reasons which are a layoff, a voluntary quit, or a discharge.

Layoff – a claimant who is laid off will almost always be eligible for UC benefits because a layoff is due to the employer not having enough work for the laid off employees.  The employees laid off have lost their job through “no fault of their own.:

Voluntary quit -  most people think that all voluntary quits will make the claimant ineligible for UC benefits.  This is not true. 

The employee who quits just because he does not want to work anymore will not be ineligible for UC benefits.  Also, the employee who quits to go to school full-time will not be eligible for UC benefits.

However, some employees do not quit to go to school full-time or because they do not want to work anymore.  Some employees quit for personal reasons such as their own illness or the illness of their child or parent.  Other employees may quit because they have to take care of a child or parent, become the victim of domestic violence, or have to move because their spouse got a new job.  Under these circumstances, employees may be eligible for UC benefits.
 
However, in determining the employee “had” to quit, DES will determine if the employee could have taken a leave of absence from the employer and the leave time would have cured the situation allowing the employee to return to work.

Other employees may quit because the work is too hard or the work conditions are intolerable.  For DES to award UC benefits in these situations, the employer has to convince DES the work is too hard or the work conditions are intolerable for most employees and the employee talked to the employer to try to get poor work conditions changed.

Employee discharge – many people think that the discharged employee will be eligible for UC benefits.  This is not true.

Employees discharged for “misconduct” as defined by Arizona unemployment law will not be eligible for UC benefits.  The employee who gets fired for theft, violence, sexual harassment, or violating other work rules will not be eligible for UC benefits because the employee lost their job due to their own fault.  An employee who violates a uniformly enforced known rule is discharged for “misconduct.”

On the other hand, an employee discharged because she was trying but could not do her job or because of excessive absenteeism with the last absence being beyond her control will probably be UC eligible because she lost her job through no fault of her own.

Caution – All UC benefit determinations are fact specific.  When the DES is determining a claimant’s eligibility for UC benefits, the DES will ask very fact specific questions of the employer and claimant.

B.    Having Earned a Minimum Amount in Wages Before Becoming Unemployed

To be eligible for UC benefits, a claimant must have earned a certain amount of wages during a one-year base period.  The base period is complicated.  The base period is the first four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim. For example, if you file your claim in September of 2017, the base period would be from April 1, 2016, through March 31, 2017.

To qualify for benefits in Arizona, you must meet either of the following criteria:

o    You must have earned at least $3,900 during the highest paid quarter of the base period, and the total wages for all four quarters of the base period must be at least one-and-a-half times the wages earned in the highest quarter. For example, if you earned $5000 in the highest quarter, you must have earned at least $7.500 (1.5 times $5000) during the base period, or

o    You must have earned at least $7,000 in two combined quarters of the base period, with at least $5,987.50 earned in one of those quarters.

C.    Able and Available for Work

Claimants who are UC benefits eligible must be able, available for, and actively seeking work while collecting UC benefits. Claimants must be able to accept a suitable job as soon as one becomes available and to certify an active weekly search.

Being “able” to work means that you are physically and mentally fit to work in a position similar to prior jobs, or have the necessary skills and education to perform other jobs. For example, someone who is on a work restriction due to an injury is generally ineligible for benefits until a doctor has cleared the person to work.

Being “available” to work also means that your circumstances allow you to accept a full-time position should one present itself. This requires you to stay accessible to the job market, actively look for a new job and declare that you would be ready to start whenever the new employer needs. There are some special rules for students to demonstrate that they are able and available to work. (See A.C.C. R6-3-5240.) In addition, a claimant must be a citizen to obtain UI benefits; undocumented persons are not eligible. (A.C.C. R6-3-5270)

III. Appealing a Determination that You are Not Eligible


If DES initially determines the claimant is ineligible for UC benefits, the claimant may appeal that determination by filing a notice of appeal with DES within 15 days of the mailing of the “Notice of Determination of the Deputy.” The date DES mailed the notice is in the upper right hand corner of the notice.  How to file the appeal is also explained in the notice.

Once an appeal is received, the DES will schedule a telephone hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The claimant and past employer will receive notice of the hearing by mail.  The claimant’s past employer may also attend the hearing by telephone. The notice of the hearing will also explain how to call into the hearing.

During the hearing, the ALJ also will ask the claimant and the past employer questions about the reason the claimant left employment.  Both the claimant and the employer also get a chance to explain to the ALJ the reason for the claimant left employment.  The claimant and employer may also ask each other questions about the how the employment ended.

After both the claimant and employer have had their chance to speak to the ALJ about how the employment ended, the ALJ will close the hearing.  After the hearing, the ALJ
will determine if the claimant is or is not eligible for UC benefits and inform both parties by mail or e-mail of the decision.

Claimants for UC benefits must be aware that the employer may also file an appeal of the DES’s initial decision.  If that happens, DES will notify the claimant of the date of the hearing by mail.

The ALJ will follow the same hearing procedure as explained above.  Claimants are encouraged to attend this hearing because their UC benefits eligibility is at risk in this hearing.
The losing party has a right to petition for an appeal to the DES for a review of the ALJ’s decision. Directions on how to file this appeal will be in the ALJ decision. However, this appeal is very legalistic.  The losing party must base their appeal on the ALJ making a decision that is not supported by unemployment compensation law or the facts presented in the telephone hearing.  No additional evidence is presented at this appeal. 

For More Information Visit:

DES published a lot of helpful information on its web site.
DES’s main web site page about UC benefits is here - https://des.az.gov/services/employment/unemployment-individual

A brochure titles a Guide to UC benefits is here - https://des.az.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/dl/PAU-007.pdf

Neither the claimant, not the employer, need to be represented by an attorney at an UC hearing. However, sometimes a claimant may want to speak with an attorney prior to the hearing or be represented by an attorney.  Claimant would have to find a private attorney with knowledge of unemployment compensation law in Arizona.

In limited situations, Community Legal Services can provide a UC claimant with legal assistance. A claimant can reach Community Legal Services at http://clsaz.org or 800.852-9075.

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • I am a porsche mechanic and have been on hourly rate (my first yr) now i am forced to go on flat rate; however the dearlership cannot guarantee 40 hours of work during the winter months, am i eligible for Underemployment?
  • While drawing UC benefits, Is there a minimum amount of pay from job offers you have to accept before losing benefits for refusing job?
  • Can I take a part-time job while receiving unemployment compensation?
  • if you are working 2 days a week can you get unemployment still
  • if you are court ordered to quit a job can you get unemployment
  • Can employer push you to quit so that you cant claim unemployment?
  • I was laid off and filed for UI April, 2011. I received a Severance Package from my employer that payed me my salary for a period of 7.25 months in a lump sum. Unemployment originally approved me receiving UI Compensation in April 2011. They reversed their decision when I applied in November 2011 for Federal extension. They based the reversal on ARS 23-621 and A.A.C. R6-3-55460 B. DES contends these codes deny UI for anyone while they receive Severance. They do not. Please take a look. My sorting out of the mess my claim is in continues to this day. I was referred to you by Channel12
  • I am collecting unemployment and want to go to school to get a masters degree. I will be attending ONLINE only. Can I keep filing for my weekly benifits?
  • If I left the state of AZ to move to the state of OR for health reasons, is a voluntary quit still a disqualifying factor?
  • I lost my job almost a year ago. I was denied unemploymt due to a paperwork problem and didn't appeal as I kept thinking I had a job right around the corner. I didn't. I finally got a job, right after I filed the appeal. They denied me because I hadn't been checking in every week. Is there anything I can do to get my "back-pay"? I was applying for jobs the whole time and can prove it.

STORIES

  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • He told me that I could actually get all the money I needed by using my home as collateral. . .
  • If you get a divorce, make sure your date of birth is on the Decree if your name is changing!. . .

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