Unemployment compensation eligibility follows strict state and federal guidelines. Claimants must prove they are entitled to payments based on their state's qualification guidelines. The state conducts an investigation into each benefit claim. The investigation involves consulting with the employer to verify the circumstances surrounding the separation. Several circumstances can lead to disqualification for benefits, and some less common factors can affect when a person becomes eligible.
Unemployment compensation provides support for those who qualify based on separation from previous employment. Employees discharged for misconduct are typically ineligible for unemployment. Misconduct includes positive drug test results, intentional company policy violations or misleading information regarding criminal convictions on applications. But in some states, misconduct only delays benefits. For example, in Maryland, misconduct occurs under three categories: simple, gross and aggravated. Employees accused of misconduct can receive benefits after meeting several conditions. In the District of Columbia, employees are ineligible for unemployment if they are accused of gross misconduct.
Some employees quit their position for reasons related to stress, harassment or discrimination. The state conducts an investigation into voluntary separation or "quit for cause" cases. People who are found to have had a legitimate reason for separation under state and federal law typically receive unemployment. Those found to have quit for an inexcusable cause, such as conflict with supervisors, are disqualified.
Unemployment compensation is paid based on an employee's salary over a previous 12-month period. This period is called the "base period." The base period is composed of quarters or three month intervals. The quarter in which an individual applies and the quarter preceding it are not part of the calculation. Employee earnings during the 12-month period must meet a specific amount to qualify.
Several aspects of employment interruption can disqualify a claim, and they vary by state. Employment in an industry that has planned periods of inactivity, such as athletic and teaching positions at schools, disqualify an employee if he reasonably assumes a return to work in the next season. Furthermore, labor disputes and leaves of absence can disqualify an applicant. Issues of monetary eligibility, such as severance packages, vacation pay and other special payments, can also disqualify a claimant based on state law.