Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits if I Lost my Job due to Coronavirus?

By: Derek Demeri
On: May 5, 2020

“If you were laid off due to coronavirus, you get more benefits now that you would have six months ago,” says Eva Zelson, an employment lawyer at the Zeff Law Firm. According to the New York Times, people filing for unemployment benefits on average got less than half their weekly salaries before the coronavirus outbreak. The federal stimulus package now provides an extra $600 weekly for coronavirus unemployment benefits.

The circumstances of your coronavirus unemployment determine your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Those who were furloughed because their workplace temporarily shut down and those who were laid off due to COVID-19 are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.

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What’s the Difference between being Fired, Furloughed, and Laid off?

“Being laid off is the best option for getting unemployment benefits,” says Zelson. This is because, in many states, you are disqualified for benefits if you were fired. However, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits if you were fired for misconduct that wasn’t too serious. If there is ambiguity about what type of misconduct led to the firing, there may be a fight to claim your benefits. However, if layoffs are the reason for your coronavirus unemployment, there will be no challenge because no misconduct was involved.

Below are definitions for different types of termination that cause coronavirus unemployment:

  • Furlough – Your workplace temporarily shuts down because of COVID-19. You don’t have a job right now, but you should when conditions improve.
  • Laid off – This is more permanent. Your company likely laid off staff due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. The company doesn’t have a job for you now, but it’s not because you did something wrong.
  • Fired – Your employer fired you for cause, likely some sort of misconduct, not because of coronavirus.

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Can I Sue my Employer if I Lose my Job due to Coronavirus?

“If someone has been laid off along with everyone else, there is usually no claim against the employer,” says Zelson. She advises consulting with a lawyer if you discover you’re the only one being laid off and there’s no clear reason. This employee may have a claim if they can show illegal targeting as the reason for their coronavirus unemployment. For example, if a group of employees is laid off, and then the positions are filled with much younger employees, there may be grounds for an age discrimination lawsuit.

Can I get my old job back after the Coronavirus?

This depends on the reasons for your coronavirus unemployment and why you were terminated from your job, such as whether the business you worked for closed temporarily or permanently. When things pick back up, presuming you’ve left the company on good terms, reapply for your old job. Communicate with your employer via email during the shutdown to see what they’re thinking. If they promised you your job back, you should get that in writing, advises Zelson, or confirm via email as soon as possible after a verbal promise is made. It’s very difficult to enforce a verbal claim that you’ll get your job back, says Zelson.

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FAQs About Coronavirus Unemployment

What if I Still Have a Job, but I Can’t Work Because I’m Quarantined?

If a company has fewer than 500 employees, under the CARES Act, they have to give you two weeks paid leave, says Zelson. If this happens, get something in writing from your doctor that advises you to quarantine for 14 days, says Zelson, and share it with your employer. In addition, if you’re caring for a child who’s not in school now, you can take 2 weeks unpaid leave, and then 10 weeks at two-thirds pay under Families First Coronavirus Response Act, says Zelson.

What if I Need to Leave My Job to Take Care of a Relative who’s Been Infected?

If you need to stay home to take care of a relative with Covid-19, you can get two-thirds pay, says Zelson. According to the Families First act, if you take the sick leave to care for someone with the coronavirus, you’re eligible for two-thirds of your regular pay, or minimum wage, whichever is higher, and up to $200 a day with a maximum $2,000 over the two weeks.

What if I Leave My Job Because of a Risk of Exposure to the Virus?

If you think your workplace is unsafe because of people working too closely together or unsanitary conditions, you can report those conditions to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you leave your job because of these reported conditions, your employer can’t refuse to rehire you because of an OSHA report, says Zelson. In addition, send an email to your employer with your concerns, she advises. If they don’t hire you afterward, then you may have a whistleblower case.

If you have questions about coronavirus unemployment, contact the experienced employment lawyers of the Zeff Law Firm at 856-778-9700.

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