If you’ve recently lost your job, there are several reasons you may be denied unemployment benefits in Florida. Most of them can be tied to employee misconduct, but it’s important to know that many eligible Florida residents can be denied unemployment benefits for a number of other reasons and sometimes through no fault of their own.
Here are five of the most common reasons you may be denied unemployment benefits by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
- Employee Misconduct
- Voluntary Resignation
- Refusal to Accept Suitable Work
- Not Meeting Earnings Requirements
- Problems With Florida’s Unemployment System
Common Reasons to Be Denied Unemployment Benefits in Florida
1. Employee Misconduct
In 2011, Florida’s Unemployment Compensation Law was amended to expand the definition of employee misconduct. This was important because it made it less difficult for employers to prove misconduct and employees were no longer presumed to be entitled to unemployment benefits. Prior to the amendment, misconduct was defined as:
- “Conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interests as is found in deliberate violation or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of the employee.”
- “Carelessness or negligence of such a degree or recurrence as to manifest culpability, wrongful intent, or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of an employer’s interests or of the employee’s duties and obligations to the employer.”
Prior to the amendment, the definition was pretty cut-and-dried, but now employee misconduct is more difficult to define. In addition to slightly altering the original definition above, the definition was expanded. For example, under subsection a) as an employee, your misconduct now needs only to be in “conscious” (rather than “willful or wanton”) disregard of reasonable standards established by your employer. This certainly reduces the burden of proof for the employer.
The new subsections of the law address “chronic absenteeism or tardiness”; “subjecting your employer to sanctions or loss of licensure”; and “violating an employer’s rule.” This last subsection is the most troubling for the employee because rules are often not consistently or fairly enforced by employers. Also under the new law, employee misconduct can occur outside of the workplace, which is not easily defined.
Although employee misconduct can be a bit nebulous at times, the following four reasons for denial by the DEO are fairly explicit.
2. Voluntary Resignation
If you voluntarily resign from your job without good cause, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if you resigned because of unsolvable problems at work, such as discrimination, harassment, or unsafe working conditions, you may be granted benefits, as long as the conditions were documented and your employer was aware of them.
3. Refusal to Accept Suitable Work
If you refuse to apply for or accept suitable work, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits. There are a number of factors taken into consideration when evaluating whether a position is suitable for an individual, including the degree of health, safety, and moral risk; physical fitness and prior training; experience and prior earnings; and distance of available work.
4. Not Meeting Earnings Requirements
Like most states, Florida has a minimum earnings requirement for those who are eligible to collect unemployment benefits. During a 12-month base period, you must have earned at least $3,400. If you did not, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
5. Problems With Florida’s Unemployment System
Finally, the State of Florida pays out unemployment benefits at one of the lowest rates in the United States. Part of this has to do with the state’s skills test, which must be completed online by those applying for unemployment benefits. While there is no pass/fail and your answers do not affect your claim or eligibility, the test is mandatory and many people do not complete the test and their claim is denied for failing to simply take the test. Unfortunately, there have also been issues with the website applicants must use to apply for benefits. It’s difficult to navigate, applicants can’t communicate directly with staff to fix issues, and the DEO sometimes claims that individuals have been paid too much or have committed fraud. Many applicants simply give up after several attempts, and others don’t receive benefits in a timely manner.
If you applied for unemployment benefits and feel that you were unfairly denied those benefits, you may want to consider appealing the decision. For example, if you were let go due to perceived misconduct that may have some room for interpretation, you may have a case. You should first take a close look at the right to appeal page on the Florida DEO website. Here you’ll find pertinent information on important deadlines, what to include in your appeal, and instructions regarding the hearing process. You must act quickly- the time within which to appeal is set out in your determination letter.
If you decide to move forward with your appeal, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney who can answer any questions you might have about your case and also give you a sense of whether the fees will make it worth your while. After all, in Florida, the current maximum amount you can collect per week in unemployment benefits is $275 for 12 to 23 weeks, depending on the current unemployment rate in the state.
If you’ve been denied unemployment benefits by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. can help you determine whether you may have a case. Give us a call today to schedule your free consultation.