Unemployment Compensation

Chapter 5: Section 6

The unemployment insurance program (see 5 U.S.C. 85) provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own, as determined under state law, and who meet other eligibility requirements. Amounts and the period they are paid also are determined by state law. Federal employees are eligible unless they work in one of the rare types of employment exempt by federal law.  

While administrative responsibility rests with the Secretary of Labor, the actual payment of unemployment compensation is made by state employment security agencies from funds provided by the federal government. For federal employees, that money comes from employing agencies. Employees do not pay personally toward unemployment insurance.

In general, the law of the state in which your last official duty station in federal civilian service was located will determine eligibility, benefit amounts, number of weeks benefits can be paid, and other conditions. However, the law of the state of your residence, if different, will govern if:

• your last official duty station was outside the United States; or

• you worked in employment covered under the law of the state in which you reside and establish a claim after termination of your federal civilian employment.

Claimants who file for unemployment benefits may be directed to register for work with the state’s employment service office. You must file weekly or biweekly claims and respond to questions concerning your continued eligibility. You must report any earnings from work you had during the week(s). You must also report any job offers or refusal of work during the week. These claims usually are filed by mail or telephone; the state will provide filing instructions. When directed, you must report as scheduled to your local Unemployment Insurance Claims Office or One-Stop/Employment Service Office. If you fail to report as scheduled for any interview, benefits may be denied. 

General information about unemployment compensation is at www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance. Information for federal employees is at http://
workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/unemcomp.asp
.

UC Benefit Eligibility Criteria

Under all state laws, you must have had a sufficient qualifying employment or earnings during the time specified by the state law as the “base period” (in the majority of states, four of the last five completed calendar quarters before you file a claim); you must be unemployed through no fault of your own; you must register for work, file a claim and continue to report to the local office as directed; you must be able to work and be available for immediate referral to full-time suitable work. All state laws provide for disqualification if you voluntarily quit a job without good cause; if you are discharged for misconduct connected with your work; or if you refuse a suitable job without good cause.

If a determination is made that you are ineligible for or disqualified from benefits, you have the right of appeal provided in the applicable state law. If you believe that the information reported by a federal agency is incorrect, you can ask for a review by that agency. The federal agency also has a right to appeal a decision made in your favor.

If you’ve received a lump-sum payment for terminal annual leave and/or severance payments, your UC benefit eligibility for the period covered by such payments is determined by the law of the state to which your federal service and wages are assigned. Some state laws deny or reduce unemployment benefits to individuals for the duration of the period they receive such income; others disregard the terminal leave and/or severance pay periods in determining eligibility for benefits. Federal employees put in unpaid, non-duty status in a “shutdown” type furlough who receive unemployment compensation must repay those benefits if they receive their salary for that time retroactively, under Labor Department policy.

UC Benefit Payments

Your weekly benefit amount and the number of weeks payable depend on the law of the state that has jurisdiction over your claim. State laws provide varying amounts, depending on an individual’s earnings, and varying maximum periods in a benefit year. In some states weekly amounts are increased by allowances for dependents. In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period, up to a state maximum amount. Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states. It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit payment. Some states require a one-week waiting period; therefore, the second week claimed is the first week of payment, if you are otherwise eligible.

After regular benefits are exhausted, additional weeks of extended benefits may be available in accordance with state law if unemployment is at a specified high level.

Under 26 U.S.C. 3304, states must, at a minimum, reduce the weekly benefit amount of any individual by the amount, allocated weekly, of any “governmental or other pension, retirement or retired pay, annuity, or any other similar periodic payment based on the previous work of such individual.” States may disregard pension payments or reduce benefits on less than a dollar-for-dollar basis for certain reasons.

Benefits are subject to federal income taxes and must be reported on your federal income tax return. You may elect to have the tax withheld by the state unemployment insurance agency. 

UC Claims-Filing Procedures

As soon as you are separated from federal civilian employment, contact the applicable state employment security agency to claim unemployment benefits. A listing of those offices is at www.careeronestop.org/localhelp/unemploymentbenefits/unemployment-
benefits.aspx
. In some states application must be made in person while in others it can be made by phone or online. The offices offer job placement, testing, and counseling services, have information on job opportunities locally and in other sections of the country, and will attempt to find suitable work for you in government or private industry. Be ready to present documents showing that you were separated from federal employment, such as SF 50, SF 52, W-2 forms, earnings and leave statements, and Standard Form 8 (unemployment information notice) if issued to you; that form contains contact information for the payroll/personnel office that has your records. If you willfully make a fraudulent claim, you are subject to a fine or imprisonment, or both. If you have made a mistake in giving information when you filed your claim, notify the local office as soon as you discover the mistake, in order to avoid penalties.

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