You may obtain unemployment benefits in Washington state even if you were fired, but only if you weren't fired for misconduct. The state has specific guidelines for what constitutes misconduct printed in its unemployment handbook. If you're guilty of being dismissed for any of the reasons listed in the handbook, you won't receive benefits; in fact, you can be penalized for it. If you were fired through no fault of your own, however, your application may be approved.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in Washington state, whether you were fired or not, you have to meet the basic eligibility standards. These include having worked at least 680 hours in your base year and having worked those hours in Washington. You cannot claim benefits in Washington if you worked those hours in another state. Your base year covers the first four of the last five calendar quarters from the week before you apply for benefits. If your hours don't add up to 680 during that time, you may be able to use the alternate base year, which is the four calendar quarters directly prior to your application.
Application and Interview
Apply for benefits online, in person at your local claims center, or over the phone at 800-318-6022. After your application is submitted, a caseworker will schedule an interview with both you and your previous employer. Interviews are generally conducted over the phone. Your interview gives you the chance to explain your version of events. Gather any information that supports your case prior to the interview, so that you'll be ready to answer questions.
Examples of Misconduct
Washington's criteria for misconduct describe behaviors that betray disrespect for an employer's right to authority in the workplace. These include repeated tardiness despite warnings, repeated and unexcused absences, dishonesty, rudeness, violating company rules and negligence that could lead to the employer's ruin or someone getting hurt. Washington also has a category for what it calls "gross misconduct" that includes criminal activity at the workplace that you've either been convicted of or admitted to, and extreme disregard for your employer and fellow employees. Getting fired because the company didn't have the funds to keep you, or because you didn't possess the training necessary, or for minor infractions or unintended misconduct won't bar you from receiving unemployment benefits.
The claims center will send you a letter with its decision. If you're approved for benefits, your benefit amount will be determined by your past earnings. At the time this article was written, the minimum weekly unemployment payment in Washington was $151, according to the Washington Employment Security Department; the maximum was $637. If it's determined you were fired for misconduct, your claimed will be denied for at least 10 weeks and until you can earn 10 times what your weekly benefit amount would have been. Additionally, the record of your earnings at the job you were fired from will be eliminated from your employment insurance history, which could disqualify you for benefits altogether.
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