1) What is Unemployment Insurance?

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a California program run by the Employment Development Department (EDD) that pays benefits to workers who have lost their jobs. A worker must file a UI claim with the EDD in order to receive benefits; they will not be received automatically upon termination of employment.  A claim should be filed as soon as the worker becomes unemployed.

2) Who is Eligible to Receive UI Benefits?

The EDD has stated the following requirements that a worker must meet in order to be eligible for UI:

  • That the worker has received enough wages during the base period to establish a claim. The EDD will use the amount of employer reported wages to determine this for a specific 12-month period.  When that 12-month period begins will depend on when the UI claim is filed.
  • Be totally or partially unemployed.
  • Be unemployed through no fault of his/her own. This generally means that an employee must have been laid off.  A worker is not eligible for UI benefits if an employer terminated the worker for cause or the worker voluntarily quit (see next section).
  • Be physically able to work.
  • Be available for work.
  • Be ready and willing to immediately accept work.
  • Be actively looking for work.
  • Be approved for training before training benefits can be paid.

Additionally, to collect UI benefits as a non-citizen an applicant who is not a citizen of the United States must establish they were authorized to work in the United States and were, and remain, in a valid immigration status.

2) Terminations for Cause and Voluntary Termination

One of the big requirements to establishing eligibility for UI is that a worker be unemployed through no fault of his or her own. An unemployed worker who has quit their job or is fired from work will be scheduled for a phone interview after filing a claim for UI benefits. The phone interview will be to resolve the separation issue, and the worker will be able to present information and documents that show that either the termination was not for cause (as defined by California law and regulations), or the worker quit due to a compelling reason. For example, if the worker quit because he or she was experiencing sexual harassment, they are likely eligible for UI benefits.

3) How Much Will an Unemployed Worker Receive?

The minimum amount a worker may receive weekly is $40, and the maximum weekly benefit is $450.  The amount a worker receives will be directly based upon the wages the worker earned in the 12-month base period. More detailed explanations of how weekly UI benefits are calculated is available on the EDD website at https://www.edd.ca.gov/pdf_pub_ctr/de8714ab.pdf

To give an example, in order to qualify for the maximum weekly amount of $450, an individual worker must have earned at least $11,674.01 in a calendar quarter (three months) during the base period.

4) How Long Do UI Benefits Last?

A claim is effective for one year. Benefits are available for up to 26 weeks.  The number of weeks a worker can receive benefits is based on wages earned during the 12-month base period.

A worker must continue to meet the above eligibility requirements each week that they receive benefits.  They can do this by certifying that they continue to be 1) physically able to work; 2) available for work; 3) ready and will to immediately accept work; and 4) actively looking for work each week they claim benefits. The certification may be submitted online, over the phone, or by mail.

5) What if I am Denied Benefits?

If a claim is denied, a worker may appeal the decision. The EDD will send an unemployed worker a Notice of Determination that states the decision to deny the claim.  The worker who wishes to appeal that decision must appeal within 20 days of the date of the notice.  The worker can use the appeal form included with the Notice of Determination, or they can simply write a letter to EDD.  Once the appeal is received, EDD will schedule a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, who will decide the case.