Unexpected job loss can be devastating to family finances. Luckily, Indiana provides certain workers who have been fired, laid off, or lost their job, a safety-net known as unemployment insurance. This can be a valuable crutch to Indiana residents trying to get back on their feet. Sometimes, an employer will dispute an employee’s unemployment application and the employee’s claim will be denied. If that happens, you have a right to appeal the denial. Read below for more information, and learn how Hewins Law Firm can help with your Indiana unemployment appeal.
Important Update Regarding Unemployment Claims and Coronavirus
Before you do anything else, please visit the U.S. CDC’s website and review all of its recommendations about how to protect yourself and others from the spread of Coronavirus. Law firms including Hewins Law Firm have been designated “essential businesses.” This designation allows us to continue to help clients with urgent needs that can’t wait for Coronavirus. If you must visit our office, take comfort in knowing that we are taking every possible precaution to protect our clients from the spread of this dangerous virus.
Worker’s Compensation and Unemployment
Individuals currently on worker’s compensation who receive notice of a layoff due to Cornoavirus, please read this post about applying for unemployment while on worker’s compensation first. For everyone else, please read on.
Government Reponse to Unemployment Claims Related to Coronavirus and What it Means For You
What many of us commonly refer to as the Coronavirus is officially called “Coronavirus disease 2019,” or “COVID-19.” The Coronavirus has proven capable of spreading from person to person very easily, as we can all see from the exploding number of new diagnoses. It is more deadly than the ordinary flu, which is why our local, state, and federal governments are going to extraordinary measures to try to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.
In Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb has issued Executive Order 20-08, which, among other things, directs Hoosiers to “stay at home” and orders non-essential businesses to close. Employees of non-essential businesses are getting laid off, and unemployment claims are rising exponentially.
Both the Federal and Indiana governments recognize that the economic toll the Coronavirus and layoffs will have on affected employees will be huge. That’s why the President has signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which combined provide a number of new, temporary protections. These include:
- a huge infusion of federal money into state unemployment systems, including Indiana’s
- additional pay of $600 per week beyond what is ordinarily paid for a period of four months,
- relaxed requirements to search for work while the crisis is ongoing
- increasing the pool of workers potentially eligible to receive benefits (such as “gig workers”, independent contractors, and the self-employed)
- more weeks of eligibility to receive benefits
- eliminating the typical 1 week waiting period before benefits kick in.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development constantly updates its website to ensure Indiana workers have the most comprehensive information available about applying for unemployment benefits during the Coronavirus crisis. It has even created a Coronavirus FAQ freely available to all applicants.
Unemployed as a Result of Need to Care for Children While Schools and Daycare Centers are Closed?
Schools and daycare centers throughout Indiana have closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Have you or your spouse had to quit a job in order to take care of your children? If so, you may be wondering if you can receive unemployment benefits while caring for a child. According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s FAQ, the answer is YES! Although that’s great news, it is possible an employer may not be aware of this fact and deny your claim. If so, you have the right to appeal your unemployment denial. Hewins Law Firm can help with you unemployment appeal.
All of the above being said, for most Indiana workers, the basic rules for eligibility, and how to apply for unemployment benefits remain unchanged. Read on for more information.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in Indiana
According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, you only qualify for unemployment benefits if you meet certain basic criteria:
- You are unemployed through no fault of your own
- You meet certain minimum income requirements for what is described as the base period, which is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the week you file an initial application
- You are able, available and actively seeking full-time work
What does “through no fault of your own” mean?
Generally, this means that you did not voluntarily quit your job or that you were not fired for cause. For instance, company-wide layoffs generally entitle laid off workers to receive unemployment benefits. Likewise, if you’ve been fired for no good reason, you likely have a claim to benefits.
If you quit your job voluntarily, you generally are not entitled to unemployment in Indiana. Every rule has its exceptions, though. For instance, you may still be eligible for Indiana unemployment benefits if you voluntarily quit your job for the following reasons:
- Unsafe working environment
- Significant change in the terms of your employment
- workplace harassment
- called up to military service
- following a spouse to a new location for a job
What are the income requirements to qualify?
If you have been doing steady, full time work for the last year, you have nothing to worry about. For those performing part-time work only, with earnings that fall below certain threshold requirements over time, may not qualify. If you’re unsure, the best and easiest way to know is to apply for unemployment benefits anyway. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development will provide you with a report of your earnings after you file.
Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Full Time Work
The third criteria for Indiana unemployment eligibility essentially boils down to this: you must be willing and able to work.
What does willingness mean? From the Department of Workforce Development’s perspective, this means that in order to receive – and continue to receive – benefits, you must be able to demonstrate to them you want to work and are looking for work. If you refuse an offer of suitable work, benefits can be denied or terminated. Likewise, if you do not provide reports of your efforts to look for work, benefits can be denied or terminated.
You must also be able to work. This means that if you have an injury or illness that prevents you from working, you may not be eligible for benefits. A common scenario that creates confusion is for employees who have been laid off or fired while they have a pending worker’s compensation claim. See my discussion of unemployment while on worker’s compensation for more information.
How to Apply for Unemployment in Indiana
All unemployment applications in Indiana are filed online with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. When you are ready to begin the process of applying, please log into the DWD’s website and read all of the information contained there. Applying is easy if you follow their recommendations.
While you wait for a determination on your initial application, a couple things will happen. First, an Indiana Career Connect account will be created for you. You need to log in and follow the instructions. NOTE: You must file weekly reports even while awaiting an initial ruling, and if you are denied and must file an appeal. You must create your account and start providing reports immediately; if you fail, your unemployment claim may be denied.
Also, within ten days, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development will provide you with a Wage Transcript and Benefit Computation document. It is important to read this document thoroughly to ensure all information – including your past wages – is correct. If your wages are under-reported, your benefit may be lower.
Your Right to Appeal Denial of Benefits
Simply applying for unemployment benefits does not guarantee you will win. It’s a little known secret, but the more employees that file for and receive unemployment, the higher unemployment tax they pay to the State of Indiana. This creates incentives for employers to deny legitimate unemployment claims. As a result, if your unemployment claim is denied in Indiana, you have the right to appeal the denial. The appeal guarantees you a telephonic hearing with an Indiana Department of Workforce Development Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The appeal hearing is your opportunity to tell the ALJ why you are entitled to unemployment benefits. You have the right to present evidence, give testimony, and even request a subpoena for evidence you don’t have but think you need.
How Can Hewins Law Firm Help With Your Appeal?
You have the right to represent yourself when appealing your denial to an administrative law judge. However, you may have never been to a hearing before. Your employer, its represntatives, and maybe their own attorney, have been to hearings before, and that may give them the upper hand.
Plus, when you appeal the denial of unemployment benefits, you have the burden of proof that the initial denial should be reversed. This may involve eliciting testimony, producing documentary evidence,and requesting subpoenas. Are you prepared to do all of that by yourself?
You also face deadlines that, if missed, will prevent you from having your appeal heard. And, even though your initial application may be filed online, your appeal must be filed via fax, mail, or in person.
Charles Hewins of Hewins Law Firm can help. Most hearings are conducted over the phone. If your initial application has been denied, call us at (812) 424-0650, e-mail, or fill out the form on this page. Charles Hewins will review your case personally and let you know if he can help. The initial case review is always free of charge.