Can I get Unemployment Insurance?

Most workers in Massachusetts are covered by Unemployment Insurance. Getting Unemployment Insurance usually depends on three things:

  1. How much money did you earn at your job?
  2. Why did you leave your job?
  3. Are you ready and able to get another job?

How much money did you earn at your job in the last year?

To get Unemployment Insurance, you must have earned at least $3,500 in the last year, and you must have worked for at least 15 weeks in the last year (in most cases). The Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) looks at how much you earned during the time they call a “base period”. During the base period, you must have earned at least $3,500. You can find out your base period by looking at the table below.   Sometimes, the base periods listed below work out so that it looks like you cannot get unemployment insurance. Sometimes the DUA, will use an “alternate base period” that gives a better idea of your most recent earnings. You can find out more about base periods and alternate base periods on the DUA’s webpage Understanding Your Base Period & Benefit Year.

If you apply for benefits in:
You must have earned at least $3,500 in your base period

January, February, March, 2010

From October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009

April, May, or June, 2010

From January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009

July, August, September, 2010

From April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010

October, November, December 2010

From July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010

Why did you leave your job?

Not everyone who loses his or her job can get Unemployment Insurance. To get Unemployment Insurance  benefits, you must have wanted to keep your job or tried to keep it. In other words, losing your job was out of your control.

Example

The company you work for goes out of business. It is not your fault that you no longer have a job. You should be able to get unemployment benefits.

If you quit, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. You will need to show you had a good reason to quit your job and that you took reasonable steps to try and keep your job.

If you were fired because you could not do your job, you may be able to get Unemployment Insurance. You will need to show that you did not break any rules at work on purpose.

Are you ready and able to work and are you looking for a new job?

The DUA only gives unemployment benefits to people who are ready and able to work. To get benefits, you must look for work. To keep getting benefits, you need to tell DUA how you have searched for a job. You must “certify” your job search every week.  You can certify your job search either by computer “webcert” or by telephone “telecert.”

Domestic Violence

If you quit or lose your job because of domestic violence, you may be able to get unemployment benefits. You may need to explain to DUA that you or your children are victims of domestic violence, and that you lost or quit your job due to the domestic violence.

You do not have to tell your employer about the domestic violence.

If you or your children have suffered domestic violence and you are in danger right now, call 911. If you are not in immediate danger, you can phone SafeLink 1-877-785-2020, or Casa Myrna Vasquez 1-800-992-2600 for help with all kinds of problems.

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated December 2012
Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Take the quiz!

Jim
1. Can Jim get unemployment benefits?
Last year, Jim graduated from high school and got his first full time job. But the company laid him off after ten weeks. Can Jim get unemployment?
answer type: 
Incorrect
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
Maybe
answer type: 
Correct
No
Correct! To get unemployment, you must have worked for at least 15 weeks in the last year. Jim would not qualify because he only worked for 10 weeks last year.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'No'. Explanation: To get unemployment, you must have worked for at least 15 weeks in the last year. Jim would not qualify because he only worked for 10 weeks last year.
Flora
2. Can Flora get unemployment benefits?
Last year, Flora worked on a farm. She only worked when her boss needed her. She worked for 20 weeks of the year, and she earned $3,000. Last week, the farm closed and laid off all of the workers. Can Flora get unemployment?
answer type: 
Incorrect
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
Maybe
answer type: 
Correct
No
Correct! To get unemployment, you must have earned at least $3,500 in the last year. Flora would not qualify because she only earned $3,000 last year.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'No'. Explanation: To get unemployment, you must have earned at least $3,500 in the last year. Flora would not qualify because she only earned $3,000 last year
Ross
3. Can Ross get unemployment benefits?
Ross came to work late 3 times last week. His boss fired him for breaking the rules. Can he get unemployment benefits?
answer type: 
Incorrect
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
Maybe
answer type: 
Correct
No
Correct! To get unemployment, you must show that losing your job was not your fault. Ross broke the rules by coming in to work late. It is his own fault that he lost his job, so he cannot qualify for unemployment.
Sorry, the correct answer is 'No'. Explanation: To get unemployment, you must show that losing your job was not your fault. Ross broke the rules by coming in to work late. It is his own fault that he lost his job, so he cannot qualify for unemployment.
Ahmed
4. Can Ahmed get unemployment benefits?
Ahmed worked full time all of last year. He earned $21,000. Last week, Ahmed was laid off. He is searching for a new job now and he has applied at several companies already. Is he eligible for unemployment benefits?
answer type: 
Correct
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
Maybe
answer type: 
Incorrect
No
Correct! To get unemployment, you must have worked at least 15 weeks and earned at least $3,500 in the last year. You must be ready and able to work. Ahmed worked more than 15 weeks, and he earned more than $3,500 last year. He can show that he is trying
Sorry, the correct answer is 'Yes.' Explanation: To get unemployment, you must have worked at least 15 weeks and earned at least $3,500 in the last year. You must be ready and able to work. Ahmed worked more than 15 weeks, and he earned more than $3,500 last year. He can show that he is trying to get a new job. Ahmed can get unemployment.
Kyung
5. Can Kyung get unemployment benefits?
Last year, Kyung worked at a restaurant. She worked for 50 weeks of the year, and she earned $22,000. Last week, the restaurant closed and laid off all of the workers. Since Kyung was no longer working, she decided to visit her mother in Korea for a month. Can Kyung get unemployment?
answer type: 
Incorrect
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
Maybe
answer type: 
Correct
No
Correct! Kyung earned more than $3,500, and worked more than 15 weeks in the last year. But while she is in Korea, she does not qualify for unemployment because she cannot show that she is willing and able to work. She cannot apply for jobs while she is o
Sorry, the correct answer is 'No.' Explanation: Kyung earned more than $3,500, and worked more than 15 weeks in the last year. But while she is in Korea, she does not qualify for unemployment because she cannot show that she is willing and able to work. She cannot apply for jobs while she is out of the country
Gina
6. Can Gina get unemployment benefits?
When Gina broke up with her boyfriend, he started calling her at work and harassing her. One day he followed her home from work and threatened to kill her. Gina was so frightened that she hid at a friend’s house and did not go to work for several days. Her boss fired her. Can Gina get unemployment?
answer type: 
Incorrect
Yes
answer type: 
Correct
Maybe
answer type: 
Incorrect
No
Correct! If you lose your job because of domestic violence, you may be able to get unemployment benefits. Gina needs to explain what happened to DUA to see if she can qualify for unemployment in her situation. She should also report this matter to the pol
Sorry, the correct answer is 'Maybe.' Explanation: If you lose your job because of domestic violence, you may be able to get unemployment benefits. Gina needs to explain what happened to DUA to see if she can qualify for unemployment in her situation. She should also report this matter to the police.

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