Unemployment Compensation Claims

Florida Attorneys

Serving You and The State of Florida

Experienced Employment Attorneys Serving You and the State of Florida

Losing your job is a difficult time in anyone’s life. It causes emotional and financial turmoil, and it is made worse if your termination resulted from discrimination or workplace retaliation. Filing for unemployment benefits is a difficult process, made more so by the pandemic and the vast number of people currently seeking unemployment.
Florida’s unemployment compensation law is complex, and the stakes are high if your claim has been denied. The Lopez Law Group provides representation for employees in unemployment appeals across the state. We also provide consultations and representation for other employment-related administrative proceedings.

How do I File for Unemployment in Florida

Unemployment assistance, now called reemployment assistance, is available in Florida to those who meet the following criteria:

  • Individuals who were terminated from their jobs through no fault of their own qualify for reemployment benefits. You will not qualify for reemployment assistance if you quit your job for personal reasons or you were terminated from your job for malicious or gross misconduct. It is important to note that poor job performance is not an automatic barrier to receiving unemployment compensation.
  • The “base period” is the first four complete quarters that began 18 months prior to your claim. During your base period, you must have earned at least $3,400 before taxes.
  • To qualify, you must be totally or partially unemployed. Partially employed individuals who qualify for unemployment compensation are those whose hours were reduced or part-time workers unable to find additional work.
  • Individuals must be able and available for employment and actively seeking work while receiving unemployment benefits.

The easiest way to file for unemployment compensation is online at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Carefully fill out the online claim form, as even small mistakes could cause your claim to be denied until the mistakes are corrected. You may encounter additional requirements that you must satisfy as you move through the process.

The CONNECT system has struggled under the influx of new claims for unemployment benefits, so patience is required. If you encounter difficulties, try the site later when traffic may not be as heavy. Deal with any problems you have immediately. If you are unable to file a claim using the online system successfully or need further assistance, you can call the Claims Assistance Hotline at 1-800-204-2418. If you require special assistance because of a disability, computer illiteracy, or language barriers, you can call 1-800-681-8102.

As frustrating as it may seem, wait times can vary dramatically, and you may find yourself waiting for an hour or more to speak with a claims representative. Make sure you allow enough time for your call because hanging up means losing your place in line.

Once you have filed your claim online or by phone, you should receive a confirmation notice that the claim has been received. If you do not immediately receive the confirmation notice, call the Claims Assistance Hotline and inform them that you did not receive confirmation of your claim.

It can take from two to four weeks to receive your first payment. It is also important to note that the first week you file is called a “waiting week,” and no benefits are paid during that time. It is crucial that you file for unemployment as quickly as possible once you lose your job.

After filling out your claim, you will be required to provide job search information to the agency, usually in the form of a weekly log of your efforts to obtain employment. Failure to provide job search information could result in a denial or a disruption of your benefits.

How Much Will my Unemployment Benefits Claim Pay

Florida calculates your weekly payment based on a percentage of your previous earnings, so the amount varies from person to person. Throughout the last half of 2020 and extending into 2021, there is the Extended Assistance Act and the CARES Act, which extends both the length of time and the amount of weekly benefits.

Starting on January 2, 2021, claimants that are eligible for at least $1 of their standard unemployment benefit amount will receive a $300 supplemental payment in addition to their standard weekly benefit amount. No additional action should be required from claimants, as the supplemental payment should be automatically added to your weekly benefits.

These supplemental benefits are made possible by the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which is currently set to expire on March 14, 2021. The payments will be made retroactive once they begin to be paid to claimants.

What is the CARES Act and How Does it Impact my Unemployment Benefits

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federally funded act to provide fast, direct economic assistance to American workers and small businesses while preserving jobs in various industries.

When it was signed into law in 2020, the CARES Act made it easier to qualify for unemployment benefits, increased the amount of benefits with a $600 a week supplemental benefit, and lengthened the time an individual could receive unemployment benefits from 26 to 39 weeks. Most of the original benefits of the CARES Act expired at the end of 2020.

On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. This Act created the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020 (CAUWA). CAUWA provides an additional 11 weeks of unemployment benefits. Because CAUWA was such a large bill that impacted numerous other acts impacted unemployment benefits, some states are still reviewing CAUWA and deciding the best ways to administer the benefits.

If you have not yet received your expanded benefits under CAUWA, Florida should make any benefits you are eligible for retroactive when the payments begin. There is uncertainty in the unemployment field as the pandemic, and subsequent federal acts, have changed many things about eligibility and how unemployment benefits are paid. If you feel you have been denied benefits to which you are entitled, contact a Florida attorney knowledgeable about employment law.

It is crucial to understand that you cannot quit your job without cause to take advantage of enhanced unemployment benefits. Under the CARES Act, doing so is considered fraud. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, you must pay back any benefits you received fraudulently and may be subject to criminal prosecution.

Unemployment Appeals

Employers often attempt to prevent an unemployment claim by utilizing skilled legal representatives that have found every loophole in Florida’s unemployment compensation law. The truth may be distorted, and as a result, your claim may be denied.

If your unemployment claim has been denied, the clock is ticking, so please file an appeal immediately. Facing a denial of benefits is also an excellent time to reach out to a knowledgeable employment attorney in Florida. The Lopez Law Group can help ensure you receive the unemployment compensation to which you are entitled.

If you feel your claim was wrongfully denied, or your employer is misrepresenting the facts, legal representation will help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the appeals process. If you were granted benefits and your employer is appealing, the stakes can be high. If your employer wins their appeal, you may have to pay back all or part of the unemployment compensation you have received.

An unemployment appeal hearing is an adversarial proceeding. You will be assigned a Referee from the Reemployment Assistance Appeals Commission, an independent body within the Department of Economic Opportunity. There are three commissioners who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the state senate.

The hearing allows representatives from the commission, or your employer, to ask you questions and give documentary evidence. You will have the same opportunity to examine witnesses, offer evidence, and the reasons you are entitled to receive benefits. Each party will also be allowed to make a closing statement.

This hearing before the Appeals Referee is often the most critical step in winning or losing an appeal for reemployment assistance. Having legal counsel that understands Florida employment law and the unemployment claims compensation rules and regulations will improve your chances of winning your appeal.

There are three possible levels of appeal for unemployment compensation in Florida. They are:

  • Unemployment Appeal Before the Appeals Referee
  • Appeals to the Reemployment Appeals Commission
  • Appeals to the District Court of Appeals

The Lopez Law Group can represent you through all unemployment proceedings, including case preparation, gathering documentary evidence, and helping you navigate the complexities of unemployment benefits claims. Your employer likely has more resources and will be seeking to look out for their interests. The Lopez Law Group will be with you throughout the process to ensure your best interest is protected.

Class Action Suit Against Florida’s Unemployment Compensation System

In April 2020, Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the Department of Economic Opportunity, asking a judge to order the department to immediately pay unemployment benefits to clients. The suit alleged that hundreds of thousands of Floridians had been waiting more than a month as the online system for unemployment claims, CONNECT, had been unable to handle the surge in claims related to COVID-19. During the first month of the pandemic, Florida was the slowest state in the union for processing unemployment claims.

CONNECT was put in place in 2013, and problems have plagued the system since its inception. When the site went live in 2013, the system was plagued by frequent crashes, causing untold frustration for those attempting to file for benefits. In mid-March 2020, the state was forced to revert to paper forms causing a massive backlog of unemployment claims to remain unprocessed.

Attorneys who brought the class-action suit alleged that the CONNECT system was “designed to fail,” despite costing taxpayers 77 million dollars for its design and implementation. In 2015, 2016, and 2019, state auditors flagged the system for the same glitches and problems that existed in 2013. Governor Ron DeSantis has called the system a “jalopy.”

While the class-action suit was dismissed in October 2020, the legal fight may not be over. The judge who dismissed the suit gave the plaintiffs’ attorneys a chance to file an amended suit, which they did in November 2020.

Find a Florida Unemployment Benefits Attorney to Protect Your Rights to Compensation

Employers are required to contribute to the funding of state unemployment benefits, and therefore, they often contest an employee’s claim for benefits. An employer might assert that employees engaged in misconduct, voluntarily resigned, or otherwise made themselves ineligible for benefits. If you believe you should be entitled to benefits under state law, reach out to the Lopez Law Group for a free case review about the merits of your case. Call 727-933-0015 to talk to our representatives today.

 

 

 

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