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If you are wondering about receiving unemployment benefits in Illinois and want to know more about your eligibility and the weekly benefit amount you may be entitled to, keep reading to gain a clearer perspective on this important topic. In Illinois, you typically cannot collect unemployment benefits if you voluntarily quit your job without just cause. However, if you quit due to an illegal working environment or other circumstances that could be considered a "constructive discharge," you might qualify for unemployment benefits after presenting your case through the appeals process.

The procedure to apply for IL unemployment can be complex, particularly after a forced resignation or if an individual has quit voluntarily. Employers are empowered to dispute unemployment claims, frequently due to the increased taxes they face when more ex-employees are granted benefits.

Claimants need to comprehend the impact of their job search efforts, pension payments, and the specific conditions under which they quit their job. These factors play a critical role in determining eligibility and the amount of benefits a person may receive. The state's guidelines are designed to assist only those who are genuinely in need and actively seeking a new job.

In instances of domestic violence, the criteria for obtaining unemployment benefits may vary, offering different considerations. For those who find new employment and need to cancel their unemployment benefits in Illinois, it's crucial to adhere to the state's protocols. This often involves notifying the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) of their change in employment status.

Unemployment is a necessary benefit for many families to cover some expenses that may arise in between jobs. As it is currently designed, the system is not necessarily created to pay dollar per dollar the income lost due to a being terminated. However, it is still a way to get some assistance for workers who were terminated through no fault of their own. Employers may be able to find some answers to their questions about unemployment here.  

Who can collect unemployment?

A worker who has been dismissed from work through no fault of their own can collect unemployment in Illinois. The phrase “through no fault of their own” may be a mouthful, but what it boils down to is that the worker was dismissed without cause. This could be because the company was downsizing, the company closed, the company closed that specific location where the workers were employed, the company eliminated the job the worker was doing, automation eliminated jobs, etc. However, only in very limited circumstances may a worker become eligible for unemployment benefits if they were the ones who initiated that separation from employment.

There is time eligibility for unemployment. To qualify for unemployment, the worker needs to be employed at least 2 quarters (4-6 months) of the year, generating at least $1600 in income in one quarter. The more the minimum salary increases, the easier it will be for the workers to meet this initial threshold. However, the other time restraints remain.  

Additionally, to qualify for unemployment, the worker needs to be able and available to find work. This means that the worker is: eligible for employment (i.e. undocumented immigrants are unlikely to qualify for unemployment if they do not have work authorization; additionally, people whose primary occupation is studying will not qualify for unemployment compensation after the loss of a job.); they need to be actively looking for work; and the individual worker cannot refuse a job offer that is suitable based on their experience level.

How long does unemployment generally last for?

Unemployment, if awarded, is generally only available for 26 weeks. Unemployment will provide a maximum of $471 per week without taking into consideration any additional benefits that you may qualify for. Unemployment is supposed to pay for 47% of the lost income from the lay off. For instance, if the applicant has a non working spouse and children, they may be entitled to receive a bit more benefits. Here you can find the Illinois unemployment weekly benefit amounts for 2021.

Unemployment benefits are generally awarded only for 26 weeks. However, in the event of an economic downturn (such as the one we have seen during Covid), the federal government may offer additional unemployment benefits such as the Pandemic Unemployment Insurance or Extended Unemployment Benefits. However, these benefits are sparsely created and they are generally implemented during recessions.

When can you collect unemployment?

A worker can collect unemployment when they are laid off; they are actively looking for work; they are able and available for work; and they do not turn down any employment offers that they are qualified to accept.  

It is important to note that if you are unemployed because of an accident or illness that arose due to your employment, unemployment is not the right benefit for you. You should be seeking compensation through the worker’s compensation system of the State. If you are going through short or long term disability due to illnesses or disabilities unrelated to your employment, you are unlikely to be able to qualify for unemployment since you will are likely to be found to be unable able or unavailable for work.

If you have other questions about the unemployment system, either because you are an employer or because you have been recently laid off, please do not hesitate to give us a call to 630-324-6666 to schedule a consultation.

Do I have to pay taxes on my unemployment benefits?

Yes, you have to pay taxes on any sort of income you receive. If you are receiving unemployment, please contact IDES to ensure that your payments have the appropriate taxes deducted. If you do not want to pay taxes until you file for taxes, please ensure that you save enough of these payments to cover any tax arrearage that you may owe.

How to collect unemployment in Illinois?

To collect unemployment in Illinois, a worker needs to apply for these benefits through the Illinois Department of Employment Security. There will be an original hearing with an adjustor. The adjustor will contact both the employee and the employer to get further information about the reason for the dismissal. If the employer chooses not to respond, IDES can still choose not to provide benefits if the reason for the dismissal in the employer files can give IDES information that they were dismissed for cause. However, if the employer chooses to engage in the process it could block an unmeritorious claim. If this happens, the worker (or the employer) can appeal to an administrative law judge who gets to decides who gets the benefits. After the hearing, a decision will be made. This decision can then be further appealed to the Unemployment Board of Review. The Board of Review is the last step under the purview of IDES. If the applicant or the employer wishes to further appeal the adverse finding, they will then file a case in front of their county’s Court under the Illinois Review Act. You can find more information on appeals on IDES’s website here and here.

If the applicant’s benefits request gets accepted, they will need to certify that they are seeking employment ever week. Certification can be made either electronically by signing in through IDES’s website or by calling IDES’s certification line. This information will be provided to you in writing by the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

Upon acceptance of work, the applicant may still receive unemployment benefits. If the applicant is receiving less than their total award, they can still receive partial unemployment benefits each week that they do not make at least what unemployment insurance is providing. Please do not turn down part time employment to avoid losing unemployment eligibility all together.

What are the reasons to collect unemployment?

A worker should be able to collect unemployment due to being terminated at their job. As mentioned previously, this dismissal has to be through no fault of the worker. This could be because the company was downsizing, the company closed, the company closed that specific location where the workers were employed, the company eliminated the job the worker was doing, automation eliminated jobs, etc.

It is important to note that if a worker has been fired “for cause” they will not be eligible for unemployment. For cause dismissal generally means that the employer had a good reason to fire the worker. This dismissal can be for any reason; however it cannot be for an illegal reason (i.e. dismissing a worker solely because of the color of their skin, an illness unrelated to their work performance, an illness for which the worker has been approved a reasonable accommodation, ancestry discrimination, because the worker reported the employer to a government entity, etc.). For cause dismissals generally fall under: bad performance, bad reviews, insubordination, tardiness, not showing up to work, leaving work early without leave, etc. Essentially, anything that can get a worker fired is a reason why they should not receive unemployment insurance.

Can I collect unemployment if I quit my job? Not unless you have just cause or good cause for quitting job

Generally no, you may not collect unemployment if you quit your job. However, there may be reasons why you lost your job that may allow you to qualify for unemployment. Essentially if the worker quit because they were subjected to an illegal working environment they may qualify for unemployment benefits because it can be considered that they were “constructively discharged.” The worker needs to be aware that if they need to go this route, they should try to get an attorney. Additionally, the worker should be aware that they are likely to lose on all appeals until they arrive to the Board of Appeals. While this may be the case, the workers need to create a record of the reasons for their dismissal.

If you have other questions about the unemployment system, either because you are an employer or because you have been recently laid off, contact an experienced attorney at O’Flaherty Law today! Call our office at (630) 324-6666, or schedule a consultation. You can also fill out our confidential contact form and we will get back to you shortly.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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