Losing a job is a financial burden, especially when there are bills to pay and a family to support. To make matters more complicated, the Illinois Unemployment Insurance Act is riddled with rules and exceptions to rules that dictate whether you are eligible to collect unemployment. To gain a bit of clarity on the subject, check out some of the commonly asked questions below.
Q: Under what circumstances can I collect unemployment?
A: Typically, you are entitled to unemployment if you have been terminated from your job. However, if you were terminated for willfully violating a known company policy (e.g. for assaulting a co-worker or failing a drug test), or if you voluntarily left your job (e.g. you don’t get along with your boss and you can’t stand to work for him anymore), you are not entitled to unemployment.
Q: What’s the difference between a voluntary leave and a discharge?
A: The unemployment department will analyze the facts surrounding your separation from your employer to determine whether your separation was voluntary (and thus you are not entitled to unemployment benefits) or a discharge (in which case you will be entitled to unemployment benefits.) Typically, your separation will be considered a voluntary leave if you resign in anticipation of being fired, but you have not been subject to any actual, imminent threat of being discharged. It may also be considered a voluntary leave if you stop showing up to work without providing an explanation to your employer. In contrast, if your employer threatens to fire you unless you resign, then such a separation will likely be considered a discharge and you will be eligible for unemployment benefits. Similarly, if there is a large, company-wide layoff and you lose your job as a result, you will likely be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Q: My claim has been denied, is there anything else I can do?
A: Yes, once the unemployment department makes a decision, both you and your employer have the right to appeal if you do not agree with the decision.
Q: What should I do to prepare for my unemployment hearing?
A: You may request a copy of your unemployment file in advance of your hearing. The file will contain any and all documentation that your employer had sent to the unemployment department. By analyzing the contents of the file, you can be prepared for the grounds on which your employer may be objecting to your unemployment application.
For more information on unemployment, visit the Illinois Department of Employment Security.