Alabama Unemployment – Know Your Rights
If you lose your job through no fault of your own, receiving unemployment benefits is a right you should take advantage of to get you through hard times. The Alabama Department of Labor administers the state’s unemployment insurance program. The process of receiving benefits can be straightforward for those who simply receive a layoff notice. This document provides a walk through for simple cases and hints on how to navigate situations that are more complex.
Eligibility for unemployment in AL
There are several basic requirements you must meet to qualify to receive unemployment benefits.
- You must have lost your job through no fault of your own.
- You must have earned enough money within the base period (first four quarters (12 months) of the last five completed quarters from the date your claim is filed) used to determine eligibility.
- The total of your base period earnings must equal or exceed one and one-half times your highest quarter earnings.
- The average of your two highest quarters must equal or exceed $1157.01.
- You must be able and available to work
Even if you believe you do not initially meet these requirements, you should go ahead and apply for benefits as soon as possible after you learn of your separation from work.
Explaining the eligibility requirements
Losing your job through “no fault of your own”
This generally means that your employer had to let you go, like a layoff or restructuring where your employer ended your position. However, there are other ways to lose a job but not be at fault.
- Unacceptable working conditions. Your employer did something that made it practically impossible to continue working there, like creating an unsafe environment or harassing you. If you brought these things to your employer’s attention and they did nothing before you decided to leave, it’s called a “constructive discharge” in the law and the unemployment compensation official may consider that you left without fault.
- Discovered illegal actions at work. Your employer may have done something illegal or violated safety regulations, forcing you to leave by putting you in jeopardy.
When you apply for benefits, you will have to explain the reason for your separation from work. If you are claiming a constructive discharge, you will have to provide a statement to that effect.
If you are part of a mass layoff or restructuring, the DOL’s Rapid Response team will get you the information on unemployment benefits in their “Dislocated worker guide.”
Base period and minimum earnings requirement
Most states have this requirement. It’s simply for you to show the state you’ve actually been working so that you can receive a sufficient amount of funds to help sustain you while you find another job. The base period is used to make the determination of how much money you earned in the past, and how much will keep you going.
Able and available
This means you must be physically and mentally able to work. You must be available to work. You cannot turn down job offers that are significantly similar in duties and salary to your previous job.
How to apply for unemployment benefits in AL
You should apply for benefits as soon as you are aware your employer is going to end your employment. It will usually take two to three weeks to complete the process from the date you file the claim until you receive the first payment.
There are several ways to file for benefits in Alabama:
- You can file online at the Alabama Department of Labor web site
- You can file a paper application, which you may mail or fax. You can get the application from the unemployment division’s web page.
- You can file by telephone by calling 1-866-234-5382
You will need several pieces of information to file for benefits:
- Social security number, driver’s license (or state-issued ID) and your mother’s maiden name
- Name, address and dates of employment for your most recent employer
- Proof that you are lawfully allowed to work in the US, including a work authorization number if you are not a citizen
- If you are separated from the military and applying for unemployment based on that job, you will need the DD214
- If you are separated from employment with the federal government, you will have to provide the proper forms or pay stubs as proof of employment.
Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in AL
If your initial claim for benefits is approved, then you will call or go online each week to file a claim for benefits, called weekly certifications. Whether online or by phone, you will be prompted to respond to a series of questions. These will establish that you remain eligible for benefits when you are filing the weekly claim.
The questions will include:
- Whether you are able and available to work
- Whether you have started a new job
- Whether you have worked part-time, earning money in excess of your weekly benefit amount
You’ll be provided with a telephone number to call when you are approved. You will create a PIN number so that you can retrieve information regarding your claim online or by phone. You will need your PIN number whenever you certify.
When you have successfully applied and approved for unemployment benefits, the unemployment division will determine how much you will receive each week and a maximum benefit amount for your period of eligibility. They will use the base period discussed above to determine how much you will receive, plus taking into account any dependents you have (minor children or people who rely on you financially). The DOL will send you a form showing how they calculated the amount you will receive.
The maximum amount of unemployment benefits you can receive in Alabama is $265 per week. The minimum is $45 per week.
The maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits is 26 weeks.
If you had any earnings during a week you were to receive unemployment compensation, you may find you receive benefits for greater or fewer weeks than 26. It will depend on how much the earnings reduced your weekly benefit.
Once you exhaust the maximum amount, that’s all you will receive until you start working again establish a new eligibility. During periods of high unemployment, Alabama law allows workers to collect benefits for longer than 26 weeks. Also, a federal law creates emergency unemployment compensation during periods of recession. As of December 2016, neither laws are applicable.
Part time work and benefits
As noted above, you may work part-time and continue to receive unemployment compensation. However, those benefits will be reduced by the amount of money you earn. If you earn more than your weekly benefit amount, you will not be eligible for benefits for that week.
You must report any earnings while you are receiving unemployment. Failure to report benefits will subject you to a penalty. You may not be able to collect unemployment in Alabama, and you will have to repay any benefits you earned.
Reasons for denial of benefits
If your employer dismissed you for good cause, you will not be eligible for benefits, generally. If you quit without a good reason for doing so, you are likely to be denied benefits. These separation issues are likely to cause a denial. However, other situations may exist that require mention.
- If you are part of a general strike at your place of employment, you will be denied benefits. You can see your union liaison for other assistance.
- If you are a full-time employee working on a contract you were aware would last a specific period, you will be denied benefits.
- Teachers may not claim unemployment benefits during the summer months. However, teachers who work during the summer may apply for unemployment based on that summer job.
There may be circumstances not related to your dismissal from employment that may cause the unemployment division to deny you benefits.
- If you are sick or disabled and cannot work, you will be denied benefits. You may be able to collect disability payments. Note that you will not be allowed to collect both disability and unemployment simultaneously.
- If you are not available for work, you may be denied benefits. For example, you may be denied if you have to move outside the United States or take care of a sick family member.
- If offered a job significantly similar in pay and duties to the job your prior employment, you have to take it or face losing eligibility for benefits.
A representative of the Alabama Career Center may contact you to question you about your job search progress and other non-separation issues. If you fail to report, or the interviewer finds you are not looking for work you the Department will stop you from receiving further unemployment benefits.
Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I get fired?
If your employer dismisses you with good cause, you will not be eligible to receive unemployment compensation. If your actions while employed violated the employer’s rules, you won’t be eligible. However, in some cases, it may be possible to show that you were unfairly discharged. In those cases, you may be eligible. You will have to state the circumstances of your dismissal when you apply for benefits.
Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I quit?
If you leave your job voluntarily, you will not be eligible for unemployment generally. However, you may be able to argue your employer forced you out unfairly. There are special circumstances that may allow you to quit and still be eligible for benefits, called a constructive discharge.
My application was denied. What can I do now?
If the unemployment division denies your application for unemployment benefits, you may file an appeal. You can file an appeal for any reason you find to disagree with the denial of benefits. However, you must file your appeal within 15 calendar days of the mailing date of the notice of denial (7 days if you were notified in person).
In Alabama, you must file your appeal in writing and deliver it by fax or mail.
Alabama Department of Labor
Hearings and Appeals Division
649 Monroe Street, Room 4677
Montgomery, Alabama 36131
Fax: (334) 956-5891
Be sure to sign your appeal letter and include your social security number on your letter.
Filing a timely appeal is important. If your appeal is late, the Appeals Division will not hear your appeal. The Division will deny your appeal on a finding of failure to file a timely appeal. If you happen to file late, you may appeal the decision not to hear your claim. However, you must be able to show you had a good reason for being late.
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Alabama.
For further information, the Alabama Department of Labor has several resources available to you.
- Visit the Department’s Unemployment web site
- Call the Inquiry line for person-to-person assistance
- Read the handbook on your rights and responsibilities
- Visit one of the local job centers near you.