It is possible to be denied unemployment benefits in California, especially with today’s often confusing eligibility requirements. Millions of people filed for unemployment over the last couple of months, with another expected wave to occur in the next couple of months. So, what if you are denied unemployment benefits? Can you appeal your decision? Do you have any other rights or options for compensation while you are out of work?

 Who Is Eligible for California Unemployment Benefits? 

The Employment Development Department (EDD) requires individuals to meet the following criteria to be eligible for unemployment benefits:

  • The employee earned a minimum of $1,300 in the highest-paid quarter OR the employee earned a minimum of $900 in the highest-paid quarter and at least 1.25-times the earnings in the highest-paid quarter
  • The employee must have involuntarily lost employment
  • The individual must be able and willing to work, and actively looking for work
  • The employee must not have been fired for serious misconduct

Currently, the EDD has extended their eligibility requirements to include individuals who might not have otherwise qualified. The time limits were also recently extended under the federal program, The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This extended the eligibility to include:

  • Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are currently experiencing symptoms and trying to get a diagnosis
  • Individuals caring for a close family member who has COVID-19, or a child, who’s school was closed due to COVID-19
  • Individual’s who’s place of employment closed due to COVID-19
  • Individuals who were forced to quit, solely due to COVID-19

This program was also extended to cover contract workers and small business owners, which complicated the process for many people. You can also learn more about eligibility availability using the online EDD calculator.

Why Was I Denied Unemployment Benefits in California?

There are many reasons why you may be denied unemployment benefits in California. One of the first things to do after finding out that you were denied unemployment rights is to find out the reason why. A few of the most common reasons for a denied claim include:

  • Lacking sufficient work history
  • Lacking sufficient earnings
  • You voluntarily quit your position
  • You were fired for serious misconduct
  • You are not currently able and available to work
  • You are not a U.S. citizen
  • You have recently refused work
  • You intentionally failed to complete work tasks in order to be fired

An incomplete application can also lead to a denied claim. When you receive a denial letter, the letter will likely include the reason why. Because of the additional eligibility requirements available under the CARES act, there are many more reasons why you may be denied benefits.

For example, if you are denied benefits under the traditional California unemployment benefits program, then you may need to file another application for benefits through the CARES act. You can also visit the EDD website to learn more about their current eligibility requirements, as they are constantly changing.

Can I Apply for Unemployment Again After Being Denied?

If you were denied, you can appeal the decision, as long as you do so within 30 days of the notice. The EDD will schedule a hearing, allowing you to argue your eligibility. Then, a judge will make a decision. You may need to supply additional documentation or dispute a claim that says you were fired for misconduct.

If you are still unsatisfied with the judge’s decision, a second level appeal is available to some individuals. It is possible to file a second-level appeal with the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. Again, you have 30 days from the first appeals process to notify them of your decision to appeal. In most cases, they will not consider additional evidence. Instead, they will look at the existing documents, the judge’s response, and then provide you with an answer. You will receive notice of the second-appeal decision in writing.

It may be helpful to go through the appeals process with a lawyer, especially if you believe that your civil rights have been compromised. A civil rights lawyer can help you consider your options.

What Other Options Are Available If My Claim is Denied Again? 

If you were denied, had filed an appeal, and then denied again, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, there may be other options available that can help you while you seek employment.

These include things like:

  • Paid Family Leave: Paid Family Leave provides compensation to individuals who need to take an extended period of time off work to care for a family member. Eligible family members include a child, parent, parent in-law, grandchild, registered partner, or sibling. Paid Family Leave may also be available to some new parents. This program provides qualified individuals with between 60-70% of income for up to eight weeks in a 12-month period.
  • Disability Insurance: Disability insurance is available short-term to individuals who need to take time off work due to an injury or illness.
  • Nonindustrial Disability Insurance: Nonindustrial disability insurance offers short-term compensation to employees who need to take time off work for a non-work-related injury. This is usually only available to state or federal employees.
  • Workers’ compensation: If you are unemployed because you were injured on the job, you may have benefits available through California’s workers’ compensation program.

Not everyone will qualify for unemployment benefits in California. Fortunately, with programs like these, you may still be able to take the time off you need.

If you have questions about your eligibility, or you are denied benefits when you should have been eligible, you may want to discuss your case with an employment lawyer.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.