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Can You Get Unemployment if You Get Fired

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Does Getting Fired Mean You Can’t Collect Unemployment?

Unemployment benefits provide income to workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. If you are laid off because your company closed, relocated or downsized its workforce, you are usually entitled to receive unemployment compensation. On the other hand, if your employer fires you because of a performance or conduct issue, your employer may dispute your right to benefits. In such cases, you may need to prove to your state’s unemployment agency that the firing was for reasons beyond your control.

Every State Is Different

Unemployment benefits programs are managed at the state level, and each state has its own criteria for awarding benefits. Some states take a tough line on unemployment benefits when you’ve being fired, outright denying claims in cases where an employee is fired because of misconduct or poor job performance, while others are more lenient.

Penalty Periods

In some states, the penalty for being fired from a job may mean less unemployment compensation but not a complete denial of benefits. For example, if you are fired for simple misconduct in New Jersey, you may have to wait out a seven-week penalty period before you can start receiving benefits. This means that if you don’t find a job before the penalty period is over, you’ll still be able to collect benefits, though the penalty period is deducted from what would be the usual time span for receiving benefits. This means that if you would typically qualify for 26 weeks of unemployment, and you are ordered to wait out a penalty, you’ll only be able to collect 19 weeks of payments.

Don’t let your former employer intimidate you into not applying for benefits. The decision to award or deny unemployment claims ultimately resides with your state’s program administrator. Since no cost is involved in applying for benefits and the possibility exists that an administrator may rule in your favor, consider filing an application even if your boss told you that she intends to fight your claim.

What if You Are Fired for Poor Performance?

If you’re fired because a company didn’t like your job performance, whether you can collect unemployment depends on what caused the performance issues. If you didn’t meet targets or made errors because the job was a poor fit for your skills and abilities, it’s likely that you will be able to receive benefits. On the other hand, if your performance was compromised due to factors within your control, such as excessive absences, drug use or insubordination, your claim may be denied or limited.

What Does It Mean to be Fired for Misconduct?

Misconduct is a behavioral issue that compromised your job performance, safety or the safety of your co-workers. Each state defines misconduct differently, but some typical behaviors that may invalidate or delay your unemployment claim include:

  • Absenteeism and tardiness: Being late for work or not showing up at all can serve as grounds for denying unemployment benefits. However, the problem usually must be severe, and you must have, at minimum, received a written warning regarding the issue before an employer can successfully fight your claim.
  • Failing or refusing to take a drug test: This depends on your states laws as well as your employment contract. 
  • Criminal activity at work: This includes stealing from your employer or fellow employees as well as activities such as assault or drug possession.
  • Insubordination: Repeated failure to follow safety procedures, disclosing trade secrets to people outside the company or failing to comply with your supervisor’s instructions can result in firing for misconduct. 

The Appeals Process

If you receive a determination letter telling you that your claim has been denied, don’t give up hope. All states offer an appeals process, and information about filing may be included with your letter. Typically, you’ll have a time limit to do so, so take action as soon as possible.


Do not delay applying for unemployment benefits, even if you are still gathering documentation to support your case. Claims must be filed within a specified period of time after you've lost your job. If you submit a late claim, you may lose money to which you were otherwise entitled.


Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.

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