Georgia Unemployment – Do you know your Rights?

  Last Verified: January 2017  

The Great Recession hit hard in Georgia, with unemployment rates rising to 10% statewide. Manufacturing has not quite recovered, and the situation worsened when a hurricane struck the state in the Fall of 2017. Like other states, Georgia offers unemployment benefits to those who are out of work through no fault of their own. These benefits offer temporary compensation to the individuals who meet the eligibility requirements of the State Law. Like the unemployment offices of other states, the Georgia Department of Labor Seal of Georgia administers its employment insurance program within Federal guidelines.

Eligibility for Unemployment in GA

In order to receive the Unemployment Compensation benefits in Georgia, you must earn enough wages in a 12-month period from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment law. You must also:

  • Be a resident of the state
  • Be able to work
  • Not be disabled
  • Be available to work
  • Be actively seeking a new job
  • Have lost your previous job via no fault of your own.
  • Be completely unemployed or working less than full time with earning less than your weekly entitlement
  • Proof you are a legal resident of the US

Different rules of eligibility apply for union workers and military personnel. Therefore, check those rules before applying, if you are a union representative or working for the military.


Eligibility Requirements Explained

Able and Available

You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file your claim. If you lost your job because of a verifiable illness, but are able to work when you file, you may be eligible for benefits.

You must be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. If you are out of the country (for reasons unrelated to military deployment) or incarcerated, you won’t be available to work.

Separated From Work Through No Fault of Your Own

If you lost work for reasons beyond your control, like a lay off or plant closing, you may be eligible for benefits. Your actions or decisions can not cause the separation.

Looking for Work

You must register with Georgia Employment Services unless you are exempt. The Department of Labor will inform you if you are exempt. Exemption examples include workers who are guaranteed to return to their old job within a certain period.

Legal Resident

You must be a US Citizen, Resident Alien, or non-citizen allowed to work legally.

The Wage Earning Requirement and Base Period

As a threshold issue, you must earn enough wages in a 12 month period to be eligible. You must earn those wages from a “covered employer.” A covered employer is one that is required to pay into the unemployment insurance fund. Your employer will know whether they are covered.

The 12-month period is called a base period. The standard base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing the initial claim for benefits.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period.

To meet the wage earning requirement:

  • You must have earned wages from a covered employer in at least two quarters; and
  • your insured wages must equal at least $1,134 in the two quarters of your base period in which you earned the highest wages;and
  • your total wages during the base period must equal at least one and one-half times the amount of money you were paid in the quarter in which you earned the highest wages

If you fail to meet the wage requirement using the standard base period, the DOL will use an alternative method. They will use wages from the last 12-months prior to your filing a claim.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

Your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is calculated by dividing the total amount of money you were paid in the two quarters in which you earned the highest wages by 42.
The state may use an alternative method to calculate your WBA if you have not earned enough wages in the two quarters where your wages were the highest.
The maximum and minimum benefit amount is set by law. The current maximum WBA is $330, and the minimum is $44. The maximum amount of weeks you may receive benefits fluctuates annually between 14 to 20 weeks, depending on the unemployment rate.

How to Apply for Benefits in GA

Unemployed Georgia residents can easily file a claim for UC benefits on the telephone, online or at a local career center.

Telephone

You just need to call the OLIVoR – the Interactive Voice Response System of Georgia, and your claim would be filed. The number is 1-866-598-4164

Online Registration

You can certify your benefits online by visiting https://www.dol.state.ga.us/WS4-MW5/cics.jsp?TRANSID=UCI1&FRMNAME=UCI1S. If you worked in Georgia within the last two years, you may use the online system.

In Person

You’ll have to find your local Georgia Department of Labor Career Center in order to file your unemployment compensation claim.

It is important to apply for your benefits immediately after losing your job. Since UC benefits are not retroactive, any sort of delay in applying might result in losing the benefits. You will need the following information when completing your claim for benefits:

  • Name & address
  • Separate letter or notice from your former employer
  • Social Security Number.
  • Names dates, and addresses of the employers you worked for in the past year and a half
  • In order to have your UC benefits paid via direct deposit, you’ll have to bring a check along with your bank account number and routing number
  • If you have been a Federal employee for the last 18 months, you are going to need SF 50 or SF 8. You might also need pay-stubs or your W2.
  • People who have been discharged from the military and are planning to file for UC benefits are going to have to present Copy#4 of their DD form 214.
  • In case you are not a US citizen, an Alien Registration Number would be required along with its expiration and type.

Maintaining Eligibility and Filing a Weekly Claim

The DOL requires that workers maintain their eligibility status while they receive benefits. If the state approves your claim, they will require you to file a claim for benefits each week, also called “weekly certifications.”

You may file a weekly claim online or by telephone using the same methods available for filing the initial claim. You can only claim benefits for the benefit week that just ended. Benefit weeks end on a Saturday.

You have two weeks to file a claim for any benefit week. You may file for two weeks at a time, but only for consecutive weeks. This is beneficial because you don’t have to worry about missing filing a claim one week. If you miss two weeks you will have to call the DOL.

To help determine whether you remain eligible, the DOL requires that you answer questions when you attempt to certify a weekly claim. These questions intend to determine:

  • Whether you are able and available to work
  • Whether you have quit or started a job
  • Whether you have earned any wages or income that week
  • Whether you are looking for work
  • Whether you have refused an offer of suitable employment

If you have earned wages, the state requires that you report those earnings. You must report them for the benefit week in which you earned those wages, not for the week you received pay. You must report your gross pay, not your “take home” pay.

Part-time Work and Benefits

You may work part-time and receive benefits in Georgia. However, the state will deduct gross (pre-tax) earnings over $50 from your WBA. If you earn more than your WBA, you will not receive a payment for the week in which you report the earnings.

Other types of income could affect your WBA, like pensions from a covered employer you worked for during the base period, severance pay or Worker’s Compensation payments. You should contact the DOL if you receive any payments, especially government payments, that you are unsure about. If you fail to report wages or other income, the DOL may believe you to be engaged in fraud, a criminal act.

Work Search Requirement

You must make a good faith effort to find work while you are receiving benefits. The state quantifies a good faith effort, requiring you to make three verifiable job contacts each week. A verifiable contact could be:

  • filing a job application with an employer
  • making personal contact with a person in a position to hire workers
  • filing an application using the Employment Services’ website

Keep a detailed record of your efforts. You may use Employment Services’ online portal for this purpose, or keep records of your own. The DOL perform random checks of all benefit recipients to see if they are making a good faith effort to find full-time employment.

Employment Services offers a range of assistance to job seekers. They also offer the federally mandated reemployment services program. The state identifies workers who may have difficulty finding work before they exhaust their maximum benefit amount. If the DOL notifies you that they have selected you to participate, you must respond or face losing benefits.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

If you fail to meet the wage earnings requirement, the state will deny benefits. The DOL will notify you of the results of their analysis of your base period wages in a Benefit Determination. You may request a redetermination if you find an error or have additional evidence to offer regarding your base period wages.

Separation issues

If you meet the wage requirements, the DOL may still deny benefits. A claims examiner will observe your separation from employment and look at whether your actions or decisions caused the separation.

If you quit work to spend time raising children or to go to school full-time, the claims examiner may not consider that quit to be for a good cause connected to work. Going back to school may be good for you, but the decision to quit had nothing to do with your employment with the employer.

If your employer dismisses you for repeated violations of a rule or policy, the claims examiner may consider those actions to be misconduct connected to the work. Your actions caused the separation.

Other Issues

The DOL may deny your claim for issues unrelated to your separation as well. Denials may come from:

  • Refusing a reasonable job offer (without a substantial or compelling reason)
  • Being unavailable for work
  • Failure to make a good faith effort to find a job
  • Failing to follow various instructions from the DOL regarding your benefits

Quit and Still Eligible

There may be a good cause to quit work that will allow you to receive benefits. Some reasons may be directly related to work, some may not. Some examples:

  • Being harassed at work (sexual harassment, racial discrimination)
  • Moving from your residence because of domestic violence matter
  • Forced to work without pay
  • Forced to work in unsafe conditions

You will have to show that you made an effort to resolve the issue with your employer in some cases before quitting.

Fired and Still Eligible

Your employer may fire you for cause. The employer’s decision may not show that your actions were “misconduct connected to the work.” For example, if you are late to work because of car trouble, but you were otherwise a good employee, the one tardy may not be misconduct.

What Happens When Unemployment Benefits are Denied in GA

You may appeal any decision the DOL makes against you regarding your unemployment benefits claim, whether it’s a monetary determination or a separation issue. You have 15 days from the mailing date on the determination to file your appeal.

You must file your appeal in writing. You may mail, fax or deliver the appeal in person at a DOL Career Center location.

You must include your social security number, current contact information and the date on the determination letter.

You must also explain in detail why you are filing the appeal.

Find out more information about the appeal process at our page on filing an unemployment benefit appeal in Georgia.

Resources

Official Website

http://www.dol.state.ga.us/em/unemployment_taxes_and_benefits.htm

Program Contact Information

The Georgia Department of Labor operates fifty-three local Career Centers. All these centers are electronically connected to each other, and they offer a number of different services to the employers as well as the job seekers. In order to find the nearest center, visit the following website:

http://www.dol.state.ga.us/find_career_centers.htm

More info on Georgia unemployment benefits

http://www.dol.state.ga.us/js/file_unemployment_insurance_claim.htm

File online

http://www.dol.state.ga.us/file_unemployment_claim.htm