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Can you still get unemployment insurance benefits if you’re fired?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Firm News

Question: Which of these sentences is true?

  • “The Employment Security Department (ESD) automatically gets detailed information about my termination”
  • “My former employer decides if I get unemployment benefits”
  • “You cannot be eligible for unemployment benefits if you got fired”
  • “You have to convince ESD, not just show them the facts”

Answer: None. None are true.

We are here to walk you through the process of getting benefits after you have been fired. This article first talks about at-will employment and what that means. Then we take a look at the test for eligibility, which is how ESD decides if you get benefits.

“At Will” Employment

Washington is an at-will employment state. This means that employment by both parties is “at-will” (unless a union or specific employment contract is involved). At-will means you can quit at any time for any reason or no reason or a made-up reason and your employer cannot force you to stay. Similarly, an employer can fire you at any time. Your employer can fire you for no reason or a made-up reason (although there are some illegal reasons for an employer to fire you).

The context around the events, conversations and actions that led up to your termination are typically very important to the decision that ESD makes. ESD needs the facts to make the right decision about if you are eligible for unemployment benefits or not. Sometimes, being terminated for no reason is not a wrongful termination – it’s the nature of at-will employment. But being terminated for no reason typically makes you eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

The Eligibility Test

The way that ESD decides if someone is eligible after a job separation is they ask “did the claimant lose their employment through no fault of their own, or inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, or failure to perform well as the result of inability or incapacity, inadvertence or ordinary negligence in isolated instances, or good faith errors in judgment or discretion.” This is why someone who is fired for performance (fired for not being able to do their job) are often decided to be eligible. ESD also often approves benefits for people who get fired because of accidents that happened or errors they made where they were following the employer’s policy or procedure.

ESD Needs the Facts

The Employment Security Department must ask you about your job separation. They also ask the employer a series of questions. The responses to ESD often include different information than what was said or written at the time of the termination and this can be significant.

ESD Decides Who Gets Benefits- Employers Don’t Decide

Your employer does not get to tell you that you cannot get unemployment. ESD decides who gets benefits. ESD will consider what your employer says when they decide if you get benefits. But they will also consider what you say. ESD makes their own decision. They don’t have to agree with what you say or what your employer says.

The decision about if a job separation makes someone eligible for unemployment benefits or not is made based on state laws. State laws provide guidelines for certain categories of events or actions. The Employment Security Department makes eligibility decisions based on 1) state laws, and 2) the information that the employer and claimant provide. The Employment Security Department needs to get information about the facts, events, and actions around the termination. The people who work for ESD don’t need -you to convince them that your employer was wrong. They don’t want to be convinced of anything. They want to get the facts of what happened so they can make the right decision about eligibility.

We are here to help you understand whether your job separation makes you eligible for benefits. If you’ve been wrongly denied benefits, we can help. In a 15-minute free consultation, we can assess your case and help you figure out the next step. Click here to schedule a free consultation.