I’ve Lost My Job – How Do I Get Unemployment Benefits? (2024)

oddtodd1.jpgLosing your job and being unemployed is no fun. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose your sense of humor. Go here to watch cartoonist Odd Todd’s take on losing his job.

Now you’ve hopefully gained some perspective. Back to the task at hand.


To help you get back on your feet and into your next job, the federal government has established the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program. This is a federal program which is administered through the states and is designed to assist unemployed workers who are between jobs. The program provides weekly payments which help cover food, rent, clothing, job search, and education costs, etc. The program’s benefits are financed by employers who make unemployment insurance-related tax contributions. In California, the Employment Development Dept (EDD) is the agency responsible for administering the UI program.


You must be:

— Out of work due to no fault of your own

— Physically able to work

— Actively seeking work

— Ready to accept work

If you resign or quit your job, you won’t be eligible for UI benefits unless you can convince the EDD that your employer effectively forced you to quit through, for example, intolerable conditions. This isn’t generally easy to prove.

On the other hand, if you are fired or laid off, you will generally be entitled to benefits unless your employer can convince the EDD that you were terminated for “gross misconduct”. “Gross misconduct” refers to extreme intentional behavior that harms the employer, e.g., destroying or stealing company property, showing up to work drunk, physically assaulting a co-worker, etc.

If you are not physically able to work due to a NON-WORK RELATED illness or injury or a medically disabling condition from pregnancy or childbirth, then you must apply to California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. SDI provides short-term benefits to eligible workers.

If you are not physically able to work due to a WORK RELATED illness or injury, then you may be eligible to file a workers compensation claim. If this is your case, you should contact an attorney right away.


You should apply as soon as possible after your employment ends. To begin a claim, you must submit an application to the EDD. You can go to their website and apply for UI benefits online by going here. Filling out the online application takes about 30 minutes. Or you can apply by phone. Call 800-300-5616 for instructions in English or 800-326-8937 for instructions in Espanol.

Usually within 2 weeks after you file your claim, the EDD will call you and your employer to collect more information, particularly regarding the circumstances of your termination. The EDD will then issue and mail a Notice of Determination and/or Ruling to both you and your employer.

Note, you should expect a “waiting period” of several weeks before you actually begin receiving payments.


If the EDD denies your application, you can appeal. Your employer can also appeal if the EDD grants you UI benefits.

To appeal, you must mail in your appeal within 20 calendar days after the Notice of Determination and/or Ruling was mailed. You can find the form on the EDD website. The Office of Appeals will then set a hearing, notifying you and your employer 10 days in advance. At the hearing, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) will hear your evidence. These hearings tend to be informal and last 30 minutes to an hour. Afterwards, the ALJ will issue a written decision, usually pretty quickly. If you don’t like that decision, you can appeal that by filing a “Writ of Mandate” with the Superior Court within 6 months after the Appeals Board’s written decision was mailed out.

Do I Need a Lawyer at the Appeal Hearing?

Probably not. The amounts involved in UI hearings are usually too small to justify the expense of an attorney. But don’t worry. You’re not expected to know the law or act like a lawyer at the hearing. Nor should you try to. You’re bound to annoy the ALJ by doing that. Just follow the ALJ’s lead. She’ll know how to lead the process and ask you the right questions.

BUT, if you intend to sue your employer in Superior Court for a larger claim such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation or medical leave interference, then you should talk to a lawyer BEFORE going to the hearing. This is because any statements made at the hearing can later be used as admissible evidence in your lawsuit. An attorney can prevent you from saying something that hurts your case. At the same time, your attorney can try to elicit damaging statements from your employer’s representative at the hearing. This can be surprisingly effective since many employers let their guard down at these hearings.

Some Quick Facts

— The UI benefit amount is calculated based upon your reported quarterly earnings over the course of a one year period preceding your application submission date. If your wages were too low, it’s possible you may not qualify for any UI benefits.

— While you receive UI benefits you can also request California Training Benefits. You may be eligible if you contact the EDD before 16 weeks of benefits have been paid or before your benefits are exhausted.

— You are required to look for work each week you receive UI benefits. It is usually a good idea to keep a written record of your job search.

— You are required to register with California’s Job Search assistance website within 21 days of applying.

— The length of time you can receive UI benefits is set by the federal government and changes from time to time. Usually, it’s 6 months or less.


If you’re scared by the above, don’t be! Thousands of people apply for UI benefits successfully every day. You can too. And it’s definitely worth the effort. Don’t put it off, do it right away.


  1. Santiago O on August 14, 2018 at 7:46 am

    Does looking for work mean applying or networking etc….

  2. Jeanette White on June 17, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    I owe, but I really need my benefits and they are you taking all my money. I asked them if they can take out $25.00 per check and no consideration. Can you help me?

  3. jacob patterson on September 29, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I was let go under a “Mutual Separation Agreement”. I was put on a probationary period due to work performance issues then ultimately let go. My old job will not contest unemployment. Do I have a good shot despite the probation?

  4. David Kiunke on August 17, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I received a layoff notice from boeing after working for 14 years with them. I am 73 and get a small social security payment, I am also retired from the federal government and get a retirement check, am I still eligible for UI.

  5. chris on July 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Jim – You can still file for unmployment but the amount you receive might be quite a bit less because you waited so long. You can go to http://unemploymentclaims.org/california-unemployment

  6. Barbara Elaine Leon on May 9, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Careful of postal carriers, they get wind of you applying for EDD.And your mail will begin to show up past due for the claims to be processed. In which you have to reapply again . And fill out all back due claims. I know this on account this is what is happening to me right now. And in California The Edd office closes at noon. Don’t bother calling on weekends.

  7. jim cook on January 23, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    i was laid off 6 months ago, can i still file?

  8. uncle speedy on September 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    some one at work mentioned behavior reflecting unfavorably  on a business by an employee. what are the parameters of this.

  9. Eloisa Burlingame on June 26, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    if I had to quit my job do to a settelment because of harassment and my civel right’s violated by my employer. After I resigned my doc. put me on disailty do to sever back pain and stress 18 monthes ago. Now I am ready to go back to work. Can I recieve unemployment and retraining program.

    Thank you,

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