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State laws vary when it comes to qualifying for and collecting unemployment benefits. If you left your job to care for a parent, and you can verify that your parent has a serious illness and is medically dependent on your care, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. Ask your parent's doctor to provide documentation explaining the seriousness of the illness and why your care is necessary.
Employer Didn't Offer Leave
You may be able to get unemployment compensation for caring for a sick parent if you contacted your employer about the situation, and he didn't offer you leave -- paid or unpaid. For example, in Connecticut, applicants may qualify to receive unemployment for caring for a sick parent if they provide medical documentation verifying the illness and can prove that their employers didn't make an offer of leave for the time needed to provide care. According to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, your employer must offer you 12 work weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period if you've worked there more than 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours. The FLMA requires public employers, private-sector employers who have more than 50 employees and elementary and secondary schools to offer the leave.
Some state unemployment agencies define taking care of a parent with a serious illness as "good cause" for receiving unemployment benefits, but some don't. For example, the State of California Employment Development Department specifically lists caring for a parent with a serious illness as good cause. Thus, it meets one of their eligibility requirements. The Texas Workforce Commission only lists caring for minor children with serious illnesses and terminally ill spouses as meeting eligibility requirements -- not parents. Consult with your state's unemployment agency to see if you're eligible.
Definition of Serious Illness
According to the FLMA, serious health conditions include chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy and long-term health conditions, such as Alzheimer's, stroke and cancer. Common colds, earaches, stomach aches, minor ulcers, influenza and cosmetic procedures don't qualify as serious illnesses, unless complications arise, according to the EDD.
States have different documentation requirements that must be submitted along with unemployment applications to verify that a parent has a serious illness. For example, in Massachusetts, an employer can request a letter from your parent's doctor stating that your parent needs you as a caretaker. Employers can also request second and third opinions from health care providers of their choice, as long as the providers don't have any contracts with them.
- State of California Employment Development Department: Eligibility
- Texas Workforce Commission: Eligibility and Benefit Amounts
- Connecticut Department of Labor: Unemployment Insurance -- A Guide to Collecting Benefits in the State of Connecticut
- U.S. Department of Labor: Family and Medical Leave Act
- U.S. Department of Labor: Leave Benefits
- U.S. Department of Labor: The Family and Medical Leave Act
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.