The purpose of unemployment insurance benefits is to compensate individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. The money for unemployment benefits comes from a special tax on employers. You, as an employee, do not pay into this fund — no money is deducted from your wages to cover you for unemployment.
Not everyone who is unemployed qualifies to receive unemployment insurance benefits. In order to be eligible, you must have worked and earned a certain amount of wages during the period of time called the “base year.” If you do not have enough wages and hours to qualify using a regular base year, your claim may be set up using an alternate base year. After you apply for unemployment insurance benefits, you will receive a Wage and Potential Benefit Report, which will include the wages your employers reported for you during the base year and the weekly benefit amount that you will receive if you meet all of the other eligibility requirements. The more you have earned, the higher your weekly unemployment insurance benefit will be. Oregon law sets a minimum and a maximum weekly benefit amount. As a general rule, you can collect up to 26 weeks of benefits on a regular claim. Sometimes there are state or federal programs that provide additional weeks of benefits after regular benefits are exhausted.
Once you have shown that you have earned enough wages to qualify for benefits, the Employment Department will look at other factors to decide if you are eligible. When you file your claim, a notice may be sent to your employer to verify the reason you are unemployed. If you were laid off because of a lack of work, and you meet all other eligibility requirements, you will most likely be entitled to receive benefits. However, if you quit your job or were discharged, the Employment Department may investigate further to determine if you might be disqualified from receiving benefits. You will be disqualified, and your unemployment benefits will be denied, if you were discharged for misconduct or if you quit work without good cause.
Misconduct generally means you willfully or recklessly violated a standard of behavior that your employer has the right to expect of an employee — or as the administrative rules describe it, “actions that amount to a willful or wantonly negligent disregard of an employer’s interests.” The employer has the burden of proving that the discharge was for misconduct. The following examples are the kinds of things that do not amount to misconduct: isolated instances of poor judgment; good faith errors; unavoidable accidents; absences due to illness or disability; or simply lacking the skills or experience necessary for the job. Note that if you were discharged for conduct involving the use of drugs or alcohol or for not complying with your employer’s reasonable written drug and/or alcohol policy, special rules may apply.
If you resigned from your job, in order to be eligible to receive benefits, you must show that you had good cause to quit. Good cause for quitting work generally requires that the reason for leaving be so serious that a reasonable person, exercising ordinary common sense, would have no alternative but to quit work. Some factors that are considered are: why you quit; how bad the problem was; and what you did to try to resolve the problem before leaving. While each individual situation is unique, some examples of good cause to leave work may include: certain types of unlawful conduct by the employer; unlawful harassment; illness of an immediate family member who requires care (if your employer will not allow you the time off); and moving away due to a change in your spouse or domestic partner's employment. If the serious situation was caused by your own actions, the Employment Department also will take this into account. Quitting in order to look for another job, to start your own business, or to attend school are not considered good cause. It is also not good cause if you resign in order to avoid being discharged for misconduct. Generally, quitting because of a reduction in pay or hours is not good cause; however exceptions may apply.
You must register with WorkSource Oregon, either online or in-person at the local WorkSource Oregon center, in order to receive benefits. You will be required to enter your job seeker information into the iMatchSkills program and meet with a representative at the WorkSource Oregon center. You will be asked for information regarding your job qualifications, skills, training, and experience in order to assist in your job search.
You must file a claim each week in order to receive benefits for that week, or to get credit for the initial “waiting week” during which no benefits are paid. Weekly claims are filed through the Online Claims System or by calling the Weekly Claim line after the week has ended. When you file your weekly claim, you must report all work and gross earnings for the week, even if you have not yet been paid.
You must generally be able to work, be available for work, and be actively seeking the type of work that you are most capable of performing due to your experience and training during all weeks for which you claim benefits. Depending on the availability of work in your particular field, you may be required to expand your job search to include other positions or types of work. As a general rule, you must be available to work both full- and part-time and to accept temporary positions, unless the part-time or temporary opportunities would substantially interfere with your return to regular employment. You also must be available to work any days and shifts during which the type of work you are seeking customarily is performed. If, however, you are limited to part-time work because you have a permanent or long-term disability, you may still be eligible for benefits. Generally, you must remain physically present in your normal labor market area in order to receive benefits, however exceptions may apply if, for example, you are out of the area actively seeking work in another area, or if you are gone only for a short time and your absence does not cause you to miss any opportunity to work or referral for work.
If you have an opportunity to perform suitable work but you either decline the work or do not report for work due to illness, injury, or other temporary incapacity, you are not considered available for work and you may not receive benefits for that week. You are not available to work if you are incarcerated, and you must report this to the Employment Department. If you are attending school, you must report your school attendance to the Employment Department, as it may interfere with your availability for full-time work. In some situations, you may be permitted to attend school while receiving benefits. You also must report any self-employment activities, even if you do not earn any money from those activities.
For each week that you claim benefits, you must complete at least five work-seeking activities. At least two of these activities must involve direct contact with an employer, either in person, by phone, by mail or online. You must keep track of your job-seeking activities. You must apply for suitable work when asked to do so by the Employment Department, and if you are offered suitable work, you must accept the job.
If you have questions regarding your eligibility or reporting requirements, contact your local UI Center.
If you are denied unemployment insurance benefits, you have the right to request a hearing. You will receive an administrative decision in the mail which states the reason(s) for the denial. You may request a hearing by following the instructions included with your administrative decision. You have a limited amount of time to request a hearing. The request must be filed within 20 days of the date that the administrative decision denying your benefits was mailed. If you fail to file your request for a hearing on time, you may be denied a hearing. You also may want to read the section entitled Unemployment Benefits Hearings Process for more information about unemployment insurance benefits hearings.
You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing.
Legal editor: Angela Ferrer, March 2016