Unemployment Insurance, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Making a Living

Unemployment Insurance
The United States has a system of mandatory unemployment insurance, operated jointly by the federal government and the individual states. Your employer must withhold a certain percentage of your pay and transfer it to the government unemployment insurance fund. The employer also pays a certain amount into the fund for your benefit. The system applies only to full-time workers, and excludes temporary help personnel.

If you lose your job through no fault of your own, with some exceptions, you will be eligible to collect unemployment benefits for a certain period (commonly a maximum of 26 weeks). If you quit your job, also with some exceptions, you will not be eligible. You must apply to a government unemployment office for the benefits, which only last as long as you are unemployed. To collect your check each time, you will have to visit the unemployment office, wait long hours with the other applicants, and answer questions about your search for new employment.

The amount an employer pays into the fund depends on its “experience rating,” the level at which previous benefits have been paid out to that employer’s discharged personnel. For this reason, it is often in the employer’s interest to object to a claim for benefits, since payment of these will cause subsequent rates to go up, perhaps significantly. A typical objection could claim that the employee was fired “for cause,” for some form of misconduct, or that the employee actually quit on his or her own accord.

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