Our Dallas based employment lawyers advise and represent individuals who have filed claims for unemployment benefits with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
What are Unemployment Benefits?
Unemployment benefits are part of an employer-paid program that provides temporary, partial income replacement to qualified individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Employers pay unemployment insurance taxes and reimbursements which support unemployment benefit payments. Employees do not pay unemployment taxes and employers cannot deduct unemployment taxes from employees’ paychecks.
Unemployment benefits are available if you meet eligibility requirements set by the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (TUCA). If you collect benefits, you are legally responsible for following the rules set by state law. Also, unemployment benefits must be reported as income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
When to Apply
You should apply for benefits as soon as you become unemployed. When you apply for unemployment benefits, the effective date of your initial claim is the Sunday of the week in which you apply. You cannot receive benefits for weeks before your claim effective date.How We Help
Unemployment Benefits Eligibility
The TWC evaluates your unemployment benefits claim based on:
- Past wages
- Job separation(s)
- Ongoing eligibility requirements
You must meet all requirements in each of these three areas to qualify for unemployment benefits.These are detailed below:
Your past wages are one of the eligibility requirements and the basis of your potential unemployment benefit amounts. The TWC uses the taxable wages, earned in Texas, your employer(s) has reported paying you during your base period to calculate your benefits.
Your base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the effective date of your initial claim. The TWC does not use the quarter in which you file or the quarter before that; it uses the one-year period before those two quarters. The effective date is the Sunday of the week in which you apply. If you do not have enough wages from employment in the base period, TWC cannot pay you benefits.
To have a payable claim, you must meet all of the following requirements:
- You have wages in more than one of the four base period calendar quarters.
- Your total base period wages are at least 37 times your weekly benefit amount.
- If you qualified for benefits on a prior claim, you must have earned six times your new weekly benefit amount since that time.
Alternate Base Period
If you were out of work for a long period during your base period because of a medically verifiable illness, injury, disability, or pregnancy, you may be able to use an alternate base period.
Types of Job Separation
To be eligible for benefits based on your job separation, you must be either unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. Examples include layoff, reduction in hours or wages not related to misconduct, being fired for reasons other than misconduct, or quitting with good cause related to work.
Layoffs are due to lack of work, not your work performance, so you may be eligible for benefits. For example, the employer has no more work available, has eliminated your position, or has closed the business.
Working Reduced Hours
If you are working but your employer reduced your hours, you may be eligible for benefits. Your reduction in hours must not be the result of a disciplinary action or due to your request.
If your employer ended your employment but you were not laid off as defined above, then you were fired. If your employer demanded your resignation, you were fired.
You may be eligible for benefits if you were fired for reasons other than misconduct. Examples of misconduct that could make you ineligible include violation of company policy, violation of law, neglect or mismanagement of your position, or failure to perform your work adequately if you are capable of doing so.
If you chose to end your employment, then you quit. Most people who quit their jobs do not receive unemployment benefits. For example, if you quit your job for personal reasons, such as lack of transportation or to stay home with your children, the TWC cannot pay you benefits.
You may be eligible for benefits if you quit for one of the reasons listed below:
Quit for good cause connected with the work, which means a work-related reason that would make an individual who wants to remain employed leave employment. You should be able to present evidence that you tried to correct work-related problems before you quit.
Examples of quitting for a good work-related reason are well-documented instances of:
- Unsafe working conditions
- Significant changes in hiring agreement
- Not getting paid or difficulty getting your agreed-upon pay
- Quit for a good reason not related to work, under limited circumstances.
Examples include leaving work because:
- A personal medical illness or injury prevented you from working
- You are caring for a minor child who has a medical illness
- You are caring for a terminally ill spouse
- You have documented cases of sexual assault, family violence or stalking
- You entered Commission-Approved Training and the job is not considered suitable under Sec. 20
- You moved with your military spouse
- Quit to move with your spouse when the move is not part of a qualifying military permanent change of station (PCS). You may be eligible for benefits but you will be disqualified for 6 to 25 weeks, depending on the situation. Your maximum benefit amount is also reduced by the number of disqualified weeks.
The TWC will mail you a statement with your potential benefit amounts after you file your claim. You may use the TWC Benefits Estimator found on the TWC website to estimate your potential benefit amounts. The estimator cannot tell you whether you qualify for unemployment benefits.
Your benefit amounts are based on your past wages. How the TWC calculates benefits is explained below:
Weekly Benefit Amount
Your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is the amount you receive for weeks you are eligible for benefits. Your WBA will be between $63 and $454 (minimum and maximum weekly benefit amounts in Texas) depending on your past wages. To calculate your WBA, divide your base period quarter with the highest wages by 25 and round to the nearest dollar. If you work during a week for which you are requesting payment, you must report your work. Wages earned may affect your benefit amounts.
Maximum Benefit Amount
Your maximum benefit amount (MBA) is the total amount you can receive during your benefit year. Your MBA is 26 times your weekly benefit amount or 27 percent of all your wages in the base period, whichever is less. To receive benefits, you must be totally or partially unemployed and meet the eligibility requirements.
Your benefit year begins on the Sunday of the week in which you applied for benefits and remains in effect for 52 weeks. Your benefit year stays in effect for those dates even if TWC disqualifies you or you receive all of your benefits. You may run out of benefits before your benefit year expires.
Determination on Payment of Unemployment Benefits
It takes about four weeks from the date you apply for benefits to know if you are eligible for benefits.
The TWC sends your last employer a letter with the reason you gave for no longer working there. By law, your employer has 14 days to respond. If the employer gives the TWC new or different information, the TWC may contact you for additional information.
Once a decision by the TWC is made, you will receive a letter called the Determination on Payment of Unemployment Benefits, which will inform you if you will receive benefits based on the single issue listed. You will receive separate Determinations on Payment of Unemployment Benefits for each issue on your claim, such as your reason for job separation or ongoing requirements.
Appealing the Decision
An appeal is your written notice that you disagree with a TWC decision and want your case decided through the appeal process.
State law gives TWC sole authority in disputed unemployment benefits claims; no other state agency or official can affect the outcome of an appeal. To participate in an appeal you must meet submission deadlines.
Three Levels of Appeals
There are three levels of appeals. You start with the first level, and if you disagree with that decision, you may proceed through the other levels.
1. Appeal to the Appeal Tribunal
2. Appeal to the Commission
3. Motion for Rehearing or Appeal to a Civil Court
Appeal to the Appeal Tribunal
The first step in the appeals process is an appeal to the Appeal Tribunal. The Appeal Tribunal is the name the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (TUCA) gives to Hearing Officers who hold unemployment insurance hearings. Each appeal case has only one Hearing Officer.
The first appeal is a telephone hearing. The claimant and employer may present testimony, witnesses, and documents relevant to its case. During the Appeal Tribunal hearing, the Hearing Officer will determine what is relevant and makes sure that the record is complete. After the hearing, the Hearing Officer will mail a decision to the interested parties.
Appeal to the Commission
If you disagree with the decision of the Appeal Tribunal, you may appeal to the Commission. The Commission will rule on your case after reviewing the Appeal Tribunal decision and listening to the recorded hearing.
Motion for Rehearing or Appeal to a Civil Court
If you disagree with the Commission decision, you may request a Motion for Rehearing by the Commission. TWC will grant the Motion for Rehearing only if you can present all of the following:
- Important new information about your case
- The reason(s) why you did not present this information earlier
- The reason(s) why you think this information could change the decision
You may appeal to a civil court between 15 and 28 days after the date TWC mailed you the Commission Appeal decision. You must complete all of the appeal steps available through TWC (except the optional Motion for Rehearing) before appealing to a civil court.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
You are not required to have legal representation in a TWC unemployment benefits appeal. The process is designed to be simple and the TWC will tell you that you don’t need an attorney. However, an experienced lawyer may assist you in preparing for your appeal hearing, advise you on the legal rules and precedents that will likely impact the hearing officer’s decision, and represent you at the hearing. This may be particularly important if you also have a potential employment claim against your employer. Your employer’s reason for terminating you and the testimony given in your TWC hearing could have an impact on your other employment claims. A lawyer can also assist you by examining your former employer’s representative during the hearing.How We Help
For more information about our Dallas based employment law services, call us today at: 214-389-0998