Unemployment Lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA
Losing your job is rough. It is scary, emotional, and leaves you with lots of questions. The safety net provided by unemployment benefits can provide at least a small amount of comfort. They are something to lean on while you figure out your next steps.
But what happens if you're denied unemployment benefits? Is there anything you can do? Is there a way to reverse the decision? Here's what you need to know about unemployment benefits—including when you should contact an experienced unemployment lawyer.
What Will Disqualify You From Unemployment Benefits?
Can you get unemployment if you get fired?
Yes. If you get fired, you can qualify for unemployment benefits. However, just because you were fired doesn't mean you automatically receive unemployment, as we explain below.
What can disqualify you from employment benefits?
Unemployment eligibility qualifications vary from state to state, but there several things that can almost always disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits.
- Insufficient earnings and/or length of employment. Your eligibility for unemployment benefits is based on your earnings during a set period, which is often the prior year. The same goes for length of employment—you usually must have worked for your employer for at least a year to qualify for unemployment benefits.
- People who are contract workers, freelancers, or who are self-employed are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Quitting without "good cause." Good cause definitions vary by state, but some examples of quitting without good cause include resigning to attend school or because of job dissatisfaction.
- Getting fired for "justifiable cause." For example, if you are fired for violating company policy or for illegal behavior, you wouldn't be eligible for unemployment benefits.
- Providing false information in your unemployment paperwork.
An experienced Pittsburgh unemployment lawyer can answer these questions based on your individual circumstances. You can reach out to us anytime, free of charge, at 412-394-1000.
Does Gross Misconduct Mean Dismissal?
Not necessarily. Gross misconduct is certainly fair grounds for termination, but it doesn't always lead to an employee being fired. Individual employers often weigh a number of factors when it comes to whether or not dismissal is the proper course of action, even if gross misconduct occurred. These include:
- Length of employment
- Previous disciplinary record
- The employee's explanation of what happened
- The circumstances surrounding the misconduct
- The employee's usual conduct and behavior
- Ensuring consistency of treatment among employees
Employers may even consider the harm that termination would cause the employee. When all of this is considered, employers may find written warnings or training courses to be adequate. They may also decide upon termination, but that is not a given outcome.
With that being said, what exactly is gross misconduct and what does gross misconduct law say about when and how someone can be terminated? The precise definition varies by company and organization, but it refers to acts that are deliberate and intentional. Employee gross misconduct examples include:
- Fighting or threatening behavior
- Breach of safety rules or disregard for others' safety
- Attempts to financially defraud the company
- Dishonesty or falsification of documents
- Harassment, discrimination, or bullying
- Working under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Intentional acts of vandalism or sabotage
It's important to keep in mind that one of the key factors in determining "gross" misconduct is establishing that the conduct was intentional. What is intentional misconduct at work? It means that an employee acted with willful disregard for the rights or safety of another, which can include other employees or the employer.
What Does it Mean to be Fired for Gross Misconduct?
There can be several different outcomes if someone is fired for gross misconduct. Some are the equivalent of a "slap on the wrist" and others are far more serious, including:
- Being denied the option to continue receiving medical benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 (COBRA)
- Not being able to work in that field again
- The filing of criminal charges
Because the presence and severity of gross misconduct is determined on a case-by-cases basis, there are no gross misconduct employment laws that predict exactly what will happen if you are fired for this reason. It is truly dependent on the act, the circumstances, the field you work in, and your employer's judgment.
What Are the Five Fair Reasons for Dismissal?
The "five fair reasons for dismissal" include:
- Gross misconduct (such as theft or harassment of another employee) or continued, less serious conduct issues.
- "Redundancy." This typically refers to layoffs—when there isn't enough work to support a role, if a company or department is shutting down, if a role is no longer required, etc.
- An employee who can't perform their job to a satisfactory level. In most instances, employers are required to consider other roles or schedules (if performance concerns are linked to something like a health issue) or to follow a performance management process.
- When keeping someone employed would mean breaking the law—for example if a commercial driver loses their license.
- Other "substantial" reasons. This is the miscellaneous bucket. It covers dismissals that are legal but don't fit into the other categories, such as:
- A client who refuses to work with an employee and there is no other work for that employee to do
- A conflict of interest that affects business interests, like if an employee has a relationship with a competitor
Do I Need an Attorney to Appeal Unemployment?
You should get in touch with an experienced unemployment lawyer if:
- The circumstances surrounding your termination are complicated (for example, if it involved suspected discrimination or retaliation)
- You have filed for unemployment benefits and been denied
Every state offers unemployment benefits to eligible employees. These eligibility requirements vary by state but almost always include that the person:
- Worked a certain amount of time
- Earned a certain amount in wages
- Is available to do work and actively seeking another job
- Was fired without fault (was laid off, quit for "good cause," wasn't fired for misconduct)
If you have been denied unemployment benefits and have questions about the denial or any of the above requirements, we recommend that you contact an experienced attorney right away. An appeal might be necessary, and if that's the case, you'll want legal representation on your side. Your former employer likely has lawyers working to prove their case, and your chances of a successful appeal are higher if you have a lawyer working to prove yours.
We're available to answer your questions 24/7 at 412-394-1000.
Can a Lawyer Help Me Get Unemployment?
If you think you've been wrongfully denied unemployment benefits, an experienced employment lawyer is your best chance at getting the benefits you deserve.
An experienced attorney is familiar with important deadlines and how to file an appeal. Your former employer will have an attorney draft their objections and other written arguments, and it's in your best interests to have an attorney handling yours.
In addition, an employment attorney can answer questions like:
- How does an employer prove misconduct?
- What can I do if I've been denied unemployment for misconduct?
We know that many people worry about the cost of hiring an attorney. Money shouldn't be a barrier to protecting your legal rights, and with us it isn't. If you choose our firm, the initial consultation is totally free and there are no upfront costs to you.
Unemployment Lawyer in Pittsburgh, PA
The best time to contact an experienced employment law attorney? As soon as you think you might need one. Strict deadlines and guidelines mean the clock starts ticking as soon as your unemployment benefits are denied. We're available 24/7 to answer your questions—the consultation is free so you have nothing to lose. And, as we say in our ads, "There's never a fee unless we get money for you." You can reach out to us by phone, form, or chat any time, day or night.