Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

“Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?” and “How do I apply for unemployment?” are frequent questions we hear from people.

Unemployment benefits and compensation both vary from state to state and can be affected by federal law.

Your rights to unemployment benefits depend on your own most recent employment experience(s), the state(s) where you worked, and the particular laws that are most applicable to you.

One common factor concerning eligibility is whether an employee quit or was fired, which in turn depend on the reasons and events associated with the separation of employment.

What if I quit?

In many cases, employees who quit will not receive unemployment benefits – but not all. While you should speak with an employment lawyer in the state where you work before deciding whether to quit a job, here are a few potential circumstances where an employee who quits a job might still receive unemployment benefits:

1. The Employment Environment – If you experienced sexual harassment, dangerous work conditions, or a boss who ordered you to act illegally, you might still be entitled to unemployment benefits.

2. Your Health – If you are simply too sick to work. For example, your illness prevents you from working. Some states only consider this factor if your illness was actually caused by the job, so consulting with an attorney can help you better understand your rights in this situation.

3. Better Employment – If you leave one job based on another job offer, you could still be covered. However, do not think the same rights necessarily hold up if you quit a job just to start looking for another job. Eligibility can be entirely dependent in this scenario if you have a firm job offer that unfortunately did not deliver as promised.

4. Family Members – If you quit to support a family member with certain illnesses, you may be eligible. However, you should first find out (in the state where you work), which types of family members allow you to still qualify for unemployment benefits.

They Fired Me

While most are, not all employees who are fired are eligible for unemployment benefits. Typically, if an employees is fired “for cause” then they are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

“For cause” usually means for a justifiable reason, such as:

1. Breaking The Law – An employee who violates the law at work, on or off company property may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

2. Safety Risk – An employee who disregards company and/or federal safety rules may not be eligible for unemployment benefits

3. Stealing – An employee who steals property of the company or co-workers may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

4. Drugs and/or Alcohol – An employee who fails a test of either drugs or alcohol, or refuses to take a drug or alcohol test as requested, may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.


If you believe you are about to become unemployed or are currently in an unemployment situation, understand that your employer may challenge your rights to unemployment benefits. Ultimately, each state has a government agency in charge of settling any disputes regarding whether someone is eligible for unemployment.

An employment attorney in the state where you work is always a valuable resource in helping you learn your unemployment rights.

Below is a link to each state’s unemployment offices:

Though all states have their own criteria, is link to a discussion on the unemployment limitations for the state of Maryland. The purpose of this link is to provide a more thorough overview of what a state considers when reviewing an unemployment application.

If you are outside of Maryland, search for a similar display of the rules for your state.

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