Unemployment Compensation Rights

Under What Circumstances Can I Collect Unemployment Compensation Benefits?

Assuming you meet the minimum qualifications for benefits, Ohio law presumes you are entitled to collect unemployment compensation unless you are disqualified for one of the reasons spelled out in Section 4141.29 of the Ohio Revised Code.

Generally, you are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits in the State of Ohio if you worked for an Ohio-based employer for at least 26 weeks in the 78 weeks leading to the loss of your job, you are able to work and otherwise remain eligible for benefits under other technical requirements of the law, and you file a complete application for benefits in the manner prescribed by Section 4141.28 of the Ohio Revised Code.

There is no good reason for delaying your application. Failure to apply in a timely fashion could cut off part or all of the benefits to which you otherwise would be entitled. Likewise, once your application is granted, a failure to file a weekly claim for benefits within three weeks of the end of any week during which you were totally or partially unemployed would render you ineligible to receive benefits for that week.

For these reasons, it would seldom be in your interests to delay the application or weekly benefit claim processes at the request or insistence of your former employer. Some employers have been known to tell ex-employees to whom they have extended severance benefits that no application or claim for unemployment compensation can be made until the time covered by those severance terms runs out. This is not correct! If you receive a severance benefit, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will coordinate the amount of such benefit with the total benefits payable under the unemployment compensation laws. Delaying the application process and/or any weekly benefit claim at the insistence or suggestion of your former employer therefore could wind up making you ineligible for unemployment compensation for which you otherwise would have qualified.

You will receive unemployment compensation benefits unless any of the following applies to you:

  • You were laid off for misconduct just cause in connection with work

  • You voluntarily quit your job without just cause in connection with your work

  • You refused without good cause to accept an offer of suitable work when made by an employer or refused or failed to investigate a referral to suitable work when directed to do so by the state’s employment office unless your refusal was within your rights under a union contract or you were attending a qualifying vocational training course at the time the referral was made to you or the Director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services otherwise excused you from this requirement;

  • Your unemployment resulted from a labor dispute (unless the dispute resulted in an employer lock-out), involves a location other than the one at which the dispute exists, or your employer is not involved in the dispute that forced the employer’s business to cease operations;

  • Your unemployment resulted from your having been sent to jail; or

  • You became unemployed due to your having committed “substantive theft,” fraud, or deceitful acts in connection with any base period work

If your circumstances do not fall into one of the six categories listed above, you are “not disqualified” from getting unemployment compensation benefits.

Prospective clients will call my office and want to sue their former employers for wrongful discharge or wrongful termination based on the letter they receive from state officials confirming the approval of their application for benefits because they were not “discharged for just cause” in connection with their work. Prospective clients routinely misinterpret this phrase to mean that a state agency has found that they were terminated “without just cause” and a claim for wrongful discharge or wrongful termination should be an easy one to bring and win.

If you receive a letter approving your claim for unemployment compensation benefits, please recognize that the language used by the agency in writing the letter is lifted directly from the statute that establishes the grounds for disqualification respecting your eligibility to receive unemployment compensation benefits. If the agency finds that you are “not disqualified,” this simply means that you are eligible to receive benefits. So, finding that you were not “discharged for just cause” merely means you are “not disqualified” for benefits and does not mean that the State of Ohio has found that you were wrongfully discharged or terminated at those concepts apply more generally under Ohio law.

Any party who disagrees with the administrative decision allowing or disallowing all or part of a claim for unemployment benefits has the right to take a series of appeals from that decision. An employee rights lawyer can help you with the evidentiary hearing that will be conducted on your appeal. If you are faced with the prospects of an appeal, you should consider contacting us today to see if we can handle your case for you or at least can help you through the process of representing yourself and knowing what evidence you will need to present and what arguments you will need to make to improve your chances of success.

Attorney Worhatch is a former Hearing Officer with the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission and has presided over hundreds of appeals in that capacity. Whether you will be representing yourself at the hearing in an appeal of your case or would prefer instead to have the help of a qualified unemployment compensation lawyer, please call our office before it is too late. The law imposes a strict 21-day deadline at each step in the appeal process and a party’s failure to invoke his or her rights at any step of the appeal process renders the balance of the entire process unavailable.

Besides, you may very well have a claim for wrongful discharge or wrongful termination, employment discrimination, harassment, “whistleblowing,” retaliation, unpaid wages, or a grievance that could be filed under your union contract. Contact us today to schedule an appointment at a time convenient to your schedule if you think you may have any of these claims for post-termination remedies.

My Employer Gave Me the Option of Resigning or Being Fired. Should I Resign? Can I Still Sue My Employer After I Resign?

Under Ohio law, a resignation—even if coerced—will pose a significant hurdle to the prospects for success in enforcing an employee’s rights and in bringing any case he or she might want to bring in the future. A resignation will also complicate your claim for unemployment compensation. Generally, an employee who quits his or her job is treated as someone who voluntarily left the workforce or job market, and the state will not pay unemployment benefits to such an individual.

The law generally affords no post-termination remedies to an individual against their former employer where the employee has voluntarily resigned his or her position.

When a voluntary resignation takes place, the former employee can receive unemployment compensation benefits only if he or she could provide clear proof to the effect that no reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities would have continued to work under the conditions presented by the employer.

For example, an employee is not required to continue providing services where their employer insists tasks are performed that:

  • Would put the employee in harm’s way

  • Would constitute criminal or otherwise unlawful behavior

  • Would expose the employee to revocation of a license

  • Would require the employee to engage in acts of moral turpitude

  • Would require the employee to expose co-workers, members of the public, business invitees, or the like to personal injury, property damage, or any of the other types of misconduct mentioned above

Where any of these things occur, the employer is deemed to have “constructively discharged” the employee, meaning the law will treat the resignation as if the termination of the employee’s job was involuntary and had been initiated by the employer because the employer’s conduct or indifference to job conditions would cause any reasonable person of ordinary sensibilities to resign rather than continue to subject himself or herself to the risks, embarrassment, humiliation, or personal threats attached to carrying out the employer’s wishes.

An attorney experienced in representing the rights of employees can negotiate terms in a severance or separation agreement that will reserve the right to make an unemployment compensation claim without risking any successful challenge by the employer to the employee’s eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits.

What Should I Do If the State of Ohio Accuses Me of “Fraudulent Misrepresentation” and Tries to Make Me Forfeit Benefits Already Received?

Under Ohio law, a claimant who makes a “fraudulent misrepresentation” with the “object” of trying to receive unemployment compensation benefits to which he or she is not entitled is subject forfeiture of all of the benefits received (and not just the excess amount to which the claimant was not entitled), plus a 25% penalty on the full amount of the forfeiture, plus interest at 14% per annum, compounded monthly, from the date the State of Ohio determines that a “fraudulent misrepresentation” occurs. In addition, the state will impose a suspension of the claimant’s rights to make future claims for unemployment compensation for a period equal to two weeks for each week benefits were paid following a “fraudulent misrepresentation” and will offset any allowed benefits and state income tax refunds until the total amount forfeited and the penalty and interest obligations are paid in full.

In a recent case, a claimant approached us for help after she was assessed forfeiture, penalty, and interest obligations exceeding $22,000.00 after the state found that she engaged in “fraudulent misrepresentation” by reporting net earnings from part-time employment instead of her gross earnings from that job each week as she made her benefit claim. The total amount she was overpaid due to this oversight or misunderstanding was less than $1,000.00, meaning the state sought more than $22.00 for every $1.00 she was overpaid.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Family Services takes the position that it need not prove that a claimant deliberately or knowingly defrauded the state when accusing a claimant of fraud. Instead, the Director contends that the mere fact the representation made by the claimant at the time an application is submitted or a weekly benefit claim is made is false is all the proof needed to claw back 100% of the benefits the claimant received (including all of the benefits for which he or she indisputably qualified), impose penalty and interest obligations, and suspend the right to make future weekly benefit claims.

There are many defenses available to a charge of “fraudulent misrepresentation,” but your failure to know about them and then to present evidence in support of those defenses at a hearing in your case could compromise your ability to assert them at later stages of the appellate process.

If you find yourself in this position, you definitely could benefit from the services of an experienced unemployment compensation lawyer at the earliest stages of the appellate review process. You should not delay seeking a lawyer’s help for even one day after learning the state plans to go after you for “fraudulent misrepresentation.”