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Can You Get Unemployment If You're Furloughed?

When a disaster strikes companies and small businesses, they may be forced to shut down temporarily. In such cases, not all employers are financially able to ask you to work from home or give you paid time off. Instead, they may offer unpaid leave of absence — or what is otherwise called a furlough — for a specific period of time.

Can you get unemployment if you're furloughed? It depends. As unemployment is mainly regulated at the state level, state laws determine whether a furloughed employee qualifies for unemployment. So, it is vital to research the laws of your state before you apply for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment laws can change during times of national emergency and economic hardship. There are times the federal government has stepped in to allow furloughed employees to receive unemployment benefits such as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Is a Furlough?

Simply speaking, a furlough is an unpaid leave of absence. It's a temporary arrangement between the employer and employee whereby the employee is able to return to work after a specific period of time.

Furlough vs. Laying Off: What Is the Difference?

When a company lays off an employee, it is permanently ending their employment, including benefits. Furlough, on the other hand, is temporary and lasts only for a specified period of time.

Do You Get Paid If You Are on Furlough?

No. As companies use this as one of their cost-cutting mechanisms, you will not get paid while on furlough.

Remember, You Can't Work for Your Company While on Furlough

You cannot work for your employer during a furlough. If, for instance, a salaried employee works for a few minutes during a furlough, they break the furlough rule and the employer is required to pay them for the entire day of work.

How About My Benefits? Do I Get to Keep Them?

Yes, in most cases, companies allow employees to keep their benefits, such as health benefits and life insurance. But you should note that employers have discretion over whether employees keep their benefits. Check with your employer before assuming you still have your benefits.

What Are My Rights as a Furloughed Employee?

As a furloughed employee, you have the following rights:

  • You can look for a new job
  • You may ask for paid personal and vacation time (if you have accumulated days)
  • You can get unemployment benefits (in most cases)

How Long Can I Collect Unemployment Benefits?

Most states allow you to collect unemployment for 26 weeks. But be sure to research your state laws as they determine the exact amount of time you can get unemployment benefits.

The Federal Government May Intervene

In rare situations, Congress may pass a bill allowing all furloughed employees to qualify for unemployment benefits. For instance, Congress passed a stimulus package bill as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill extends unemployment benefits to all employees who lost their job because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill benefits unemployed individuals, including those who may not be otherwise eligible at the state level, including furloughed employees.

The bill also provides a $600 weekly check to all employees that qualify for unemployment benefits. This payment is expected to last through July 31, 2020. 

Additional Resources:

Need Legal Help? Consult With an Attorney

Getting furloughed can cause severe financial distress to you and your loved ones. Speak to an experienced employment law attorney if you are planning to apply for unemployment benefits or if you want to know more about how the process works.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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