If you need to consult with an attorney regarding unemployment benefits, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral & Information Service.
If you were employed, but now have lost your job, and you meet certain legal requirements, you may be entitled to weekly monetary payments under the Unemployment Compensation Law of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These benefits vary, depending on your prior earnings.
Generally, in order to be eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits, you must: (1) be unemployed; (2) have been separated from your most recent employment for reasons which do not make you ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits; (3) have previously worked and earned a certain level of wages over a period of time; (4) be registered for work at a State Unemployment Office and continue to report as directed; (5) make a valid application for Unemployment Compensation Benefits; and (6) be ready, able and available for suitable work.
It should also be noted, except under certain narrow circumstances set forth in the Unemployment Compensation Law, if you were a self-employed individual, you probably are not eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits.
Under the law, if you have recently become unemployed, and would otherwise qualify for benefits, certain facts in your particular separation from your most recent employment may make you ineligible. For example, you could be determined ineligible for benefits if you: voluntarily quit your job without good cause; were terminated from your job for willful misconduct; violated the reasonable rules or policies of your employer; or failed to accept suitable employment as offered by the employer.
If you think you might be eligible for Unemployment Compensation Benefits, you must promptly file a claim at the Office of Employment Security. As part of that claim process, you will be interviewed and asked questions regarding prior wages, the facts and reasons why you are presently unemployed, and whether you are now available and willing to work. At this initial phase, the claimant and the former employer will be notified as to whether the claimant has been ruled to have qualified for the unemployment compensation benefits. From this initial determination, either the claimant or the employer may file an appeal and request a hearing before an Unemployment Compensation Referee.
The Referee will conduct a full hearing at which time witnesses for both the claimant and the employer should appear in order to testify under oath. Generally speaking, the Referee cannot consider a notarized statement of a witness as a substitute for that witness' actual live testimony before the Referee. The Referee will promptly render a written decision concerning the claimant's eligibility for benefits. In a contested case, further appeals are possible to the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review and to the Commonwealth Court.
It is important to note that an employer cannot guarantee to a claimant that he or she will be eligible for unemployment compensation. The initial determination of a claimant's eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits is made by the Office of Employment Security which must follow the legal requirements for determining a claimant's eligibility.
Any party, whether a claimant/employee or employer, who feels an improper determination has been made as to benefits eligibility, may quickly seek out competent advice from a lawyer. Although many parties appear unrepresented at unemployment hearings, it is always a good idea to consult with/secure legal representation if possible. This should be done early in the process. Most of the notices and determinations by the Office of Employment Security concerning benefits eligibility require that time limits for appeal be adhered to strictly. It is important that any party involved in an Unemployment Compensation case have the particular facts in his or her situation analyzed by a qualified lawyer to determine the merits of the claim, in light of the current statutory and extensive case law in Pennsylvania dealing with eligibility for Unemployment Compensation Benefits.
This page provides information to help you understand your rights to unemployment benefits. For information on filing an unemployment claim, please do not contact the ECBA, but rather the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Service Center at 814-871-4311.
Information is current as of 2/2018.