As the COVID 19 or “Coronavirus” has severely affected our community, many counties – including Dallas County – have issued Stay-at-Home orders requiring people to work from home and for non-essential businesses to close. This has had the direct effect of many, many employees finding themselves out of work without a steady source of income to support themselves and their families.
How do I Apply for Benefits?
If you have been laid off, terminated, or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19 (or many other reasons), you can apply for unemployment benefits. You can apply online at https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services or by phone at 1-800-939-6631. The Tele-Center is open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.
Am I eligible for Benefits?
Generally speaking, to be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must meet the Commission’s criteria in three areas: past wages, job separation, and ongoing eligibility.
Past Wages Requirements
For past wages, you must demonstrate to the Commission that you have earned enough taxable wages in Texas to qualify. This means that you must have earned wages in “more than one of the four base period calendar quarters.” Your base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the effective date of your initial claim, not including the quarter in which you file or the immediately preceding quarter. Just as an example, if you apply for benefits on April 1, 2020 (2020 Quarter 2), you would need to show you earned wages in more than one of the 4 quarters in 2019. There is more information on eligibility available here: https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/eligibility-benefit-amounts. One of our experienced attorneys can help you determine your eligibility.
Job Separation Requirements
For the job separation requirements, you must be either unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. Examples include layoff, reduction in hours or wages not related to misconduct, being fired for reasons other than misconduct, or quitting with good cause related to work. Examples of misconduct that could make you ineligible include violation of your employer’s policies, violation of law, neglect or mismanagement of your position, or failure to perform your work adequately when you are capable of doing so.
If you quit or resign your employment, you most likely are not eligible for unemployment benefits. For example, if you quit your job for personal reasons, such as lack of transportation or stay home with your children, you are most likely ineligible. There are some exceptions where you leave your job for good cause or other qualifying reasons. Our attorneys can help you determine your eligibility as well.
Ongoing Eligibility Requirements
The Texas Workforce Commission also requires you to continue to meet certain requirements to maintain your eligibility for benefits. These requirements have to do with ctoninuned unemployment and efforts to find another job. There is more information available here: https://twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/ongoing-eligibility-requirements-receiving-unemployment-benefits.
What Happens if My Application is Denied?
If your application for benefits is denied, you will get a notice with instructions on how to file appeal. If you want to appeal, you must file your appeal by the deadline indicated in the notice you receive from the TWC. If your benefits are approved, your ex-employer can appeal that approval as well. If either side appeals the determination on your eligibility for unemployment benefits, the Texas Workforce Commission will schedule a telephonic hearing with hearing officer who has the authority to either reverse or uphold the initial decision.
You Should Hire an Attorney
We strongly recommend you seek the help of an attorney for the appeal process, whether you are appealing a denial of your application for benefits or if your ex-employer is appealing the approval of your benefits. The telephonic hearings loosely follow the legal rules of evidence and involve questioning witnesses under oath and offering documents as exhibits. If you are already receiving benefits, a determination by the hearing officer overturning the approval of your benefits could mean you have to pay your benefits back. This is a very difficult situation for folks who are out of work.
While there is no guarantee of an outcome, you drastically improve your chances of prevailing in these telephonic hearings with an attorney representing you. Our firm has extensive experience representing clients in these hearings. Even if you do not have another legal issue you need us to help with, we can represent you in these unemployment hearings for a flat rate that is a fraction of your potential unemployment benefits. Because there are often thousands of dollars at stake, it is in your best interest to maximize your chances in these hearings by having one of our experienced attorneys represent you.
Contact one of our attorneys today for help in seeking your unemployment benefits.