Florida State Unemployment: How Long Do You Have to Be an Employee?

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Losing your job and joining the ranks of the unemployed is stressful enough, but it becomes more so if you aren't certain that you qualify for unemployment. The definition of your base period, which determines your eligibility for benefits, varies from state to state as does the amount of earned wages needed to qualify. If you are filing for unemployment benefits in Florida, Florida's definition is the one that matters.

Base Period

Your base period is the block of earnings and unemployment contributions upon which your benefit eligibility is determined and your weekly benefit amount is calculated. Though there is no requirement that you work for an employer for a certain amount of time, if you weren't working for him during the base period used to calculate your benefits, you are ineligible. In Florida, the base period is the first four quarters of the previous five quarters prior to filing a claim. For example, to file for benefits in April, May or June of 2011, you must have sufficient earnings in the period from January to December of 2010.

Earnings

You must also have enough earnings to qualify for unemployment benefits, regardless of how long you worked for your employer. This is particularly important if you have been subject to furlough days or other reductions in your income. To qualify for unemployment benefits in Florida, you must have had wages in two or more calendar quarters in the base period; your base period must represent 1.5 times the wages in the quarter with the highest earnings; and you must have at least $3,400 of wages in the base period. This is based on the earnings received from this employer in the year prior to filing your benefits claim. If you weren't working for your current employer during that period, you are ineligible.

Calculating Benefits

To calculate your weekly unemployment benefit amount in Florida, first determine how much you made during your base period and which quarter of the base period had the highest earnings. For example, if you are filing for benefits from April through June of 2011, your base period is from January through December of 2010. You must have worked for your employer during that time period. Take the quarter with the highest earnings, total the earnings and divide that by 26. This is your weekly benefit amount. The minimum you can collect in unemployment is $32 per week. The maximum is $275.

Other Eligibility Criteria

Just having sufficient earnings does not guarantee you unemployment benefits. Your reason for your current unemployment is also a factor. You must be unemployed through no fault of your own. If you quit voluntarily, you are typically ineligible for benefits unless your employer was the cause, for example, he stopped paying you; you became ill or disabled; your permanent employer recalled you from a temporary termination; or your military spouse was transferred. If you are fired, you should only be denied benefits if the reason was due to your misconduct.

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