The nation's economy has rebounded, and unemployment numbers have dropped. In fact, in May, the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania was 4.5 percent - the lowest it's been in more than a decade.
Still, that translates to a lot of people needing unemployment assistance. Despite the strong economy, select industries are struggling and being forced to lay off employees. Terminations also occur for reasons that aren't the employee's fault.
So where do you turn next if you suddenly find yourself out of work? File for unemployment compensation.
Not everyone will be eligible for unemployment through the state. Before applying, you'll need to review the criteria to determine your eligibility.
First of all, did you work enough weeks and earn enough pay to qualify? You must have worked at least 18 weeks in what Pennsylvania calls the "base year" and earned $116 or more per week. You aren't eligible for unemployment compensation if your worked fewer than those 18 weeks.
Next, did you work in a job that Pennsylvania unemployment compensation deems eligible? Some jobs are exempt from coverage, such as "agricultural labor and domestic services," according to the law. Self-employed workers also aren't eligible.
With those two hurdles passed, then you must look at why you lost your job. Unemployment compensation extends to those who were laid off or lost a job for a reason that wasn't their fault. You also can't collect if you voluntarily left your job.
What constitutes fault? Pennsylvania law describes these factors surrounding willful misconduct, which is an intentional disregard of an employer's expected standards: continued absenteeism or tardiness after a warning; a violation of a known rule; display of a poor attitude; disruption of the workplace; intentional damage to the company's property; failure to perform up to standards after repeated warnings if the employer can show the employee is capable of doing the work; and failure to pass a lawfully administered drug or alcohol test.
Losing a job is scary and being denied unemployment compensation benefits you believe you're entitled to is downright frightening. If you are ruled ineligible, a Pennsylvania attorney experienced in employment law can discuss the next step with you.