Job Search Strategies: Filing for unemployment benefits

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

Several newly laid-off colleagues have mentioned to me that they wonder if they should file for unemployment benefits. They hesitate to do this for several reasons.

They wonder if they will be “blackballed” by their previous employer or by the recruiting agency and will have trouble finding a new job or contract assignment for that reason.  They wonder if the claim will be contested and then if they will have to go through the messy process of filing an appeal or backing out with their tail between their legs, having filed and then ending up with nothing but possibly a reputation as a trouble maker.

Nevertheless, as to the threshold question of whether you should file, I say, absolutely!  You should not hesitate to file a claim if you were let go through no fault of your own and the other requirements apply to your unemployment status. You can read all about the requirements for eligibility at various on line sites to make sure your claim won’t be contested.

The money you collect is, in part, money that was put into the system over years that you worked. The intended purpose of the benefit is to help you out with a safety net when you become unemployed. I know that some people are not aware of this and believe they are getting “entitlements” if they file, of which they feel somehow undeserving.  Well, disabuse yourself of that idea.

Additionally, the way the system is structured has the beneficial effect of making employers more careful about how they hire and lay people off, and of rewarding employers who make wise employment decisions. If there are too many claims against an employer, the end result is that their unemployment tax rate will increase.

You can file your unemployment benefits claim online.  Filing online doesn’t take much time, and it saves you the indignity (and the time) of having to stand in line at an employment office.  Be aware, though, that if there is anything unusual about your claim or if you answer a question incorrectly, you will have to go to the employment office in person anyway. Some of the questions in the online application are a little tricky, so think them through thoroughly before you answer them, to save yourself from possibly having to appear in person.

As to the reaction of the employer, years ago, (and there may still be some employers out there who respond this way), there were employers who fought every claim and put you through hell, but that doesn’t seem to be the case any more.  It is simply the cost of doing business: as an employer you pay into the fund and you know that at some point some of those funds will be paid out to employees who did not work out in your organization for whatever reason.

Would the employer you filed against ever rehire you if you filed a claim, or would they give you a bad reference? Probably doubtful to both, even though both are possible.

Maybe it will help you to think of it this way: you are doing your civic duty by applying for and collecting much-needed unemployment benefits and subsequently paying for goods and services that you need and that support the economy!

Any comments from filers are welcome.  Feel free to share with us any experiences you have had with regard to filing and collecting unemployment benefits.

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