Contesting A Washington State Unemployment Benefits Claim

One of the important types of social insurance programs available to workers in the United States is the right to receive, under appropriate circumstances, unemployment benefits while they are out of work. The unemployment benefits program does not replace one’s entire regular earnings, but it does provide a safety net of sorts, while the worker looks for and finds new employment.

Unemployment Benefits: Basic Requirements for the Employee

Not every out-of-work Washington State employee is eligible for unemployment benefits. Where the employee is not so eligible, it may be in the interests of the former employer to contest the claim. Generally, a worker can be awarded benefits if the worker:

  • Has earned some wages in Washington State during the past 18 months
  • Has worked at least 680 hours during the worker’s most recent base year
  • Was laid off or recently discharged from the military
  • Has been fired, replaced, or “locked out” by an employer during a labor dispute (note that being locked out and being on strike are not the same)

Disqualifying Factors

A worker generally does not qualify for unemployment benefits if he or she:

  • Voluntarily quit the job
  • Was fired for misconduct
  • Is on strike during a labor dispute

Quitting Is Not Always Considered Voluntary

While it is true that an employee who voluntarily quits his or her position is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits, employers should recognize that the Washington State Employment Security Department (“the Department”) routinely awards benefits where the decision to quit is deemed to be involuntary. The Department lists a number of those involuntary situations, including where the worker:

  • Quit to take another job, and then was laid off
  • Became sick or disabled, or a member of his or her family became sick, disabled, or died, and it was necessary for the worker to quit work temporarily
  • Experienced a reduction in his or her usual pay or hours of work by 25 percent or more
  • Moved to be with a spouse or domestic partner whose job is outside the existing labor market area
  • Was reassigned to a new location so that the commute became longer or more difficult
  • Was reassigned to a position that required the worker to act against his or her religious or moral beliefs

Misconduct May Be Narrower Than Many Employers Think

While a worker who is fired for misconduct generally is ineligible for unemployment benefits, employers should be careful to understand that “misconduct” is subject to interpretation. The Department may not see it through the employer’s eyes. For example, if the demands of a position change over time, and the employee finds that he or she is not capable of performing up to the employer’s standards, that generally is not misconduct. Where an employee does not have the skills to complete the job successfully, he or she can be fired – yes – but the employee will almost always qualify for unemployment benefits in those situations.

Bolan Law Group. – Experienced and Skilled Tacoma Employment Lawyers

Bolan Law Group. has over 50 years of combined experience in advising employers in Washington State. We never take a “cookie-cutter” approach to a problem. We analyze the case, advise you of the options, and seek out the best possible strategy to achieve them. Our firm handles cases in a collaborative manner – that is, attorneys working together to find solutions to your business problems. That way, our clients can benefit from the many strengths that our attorneys can bring to bear on an issue. For assistance with any type of employment or business issue,

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