Tennessee Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Tennessee is provided to those who have lost their jobs for no fault of their own in the state of Tennessee. The purpose of UI benefits is to help those who have lost their jobs for ‘no cause’ to gain some monetary stability during the time of transition from job to another.
The Department of Labor & Workforce Development (DLWD) in Tennessee oversees the functions of assessing the eligibility of the applicants for UI benefits. It also organizes training programs and provides other unemployment related services to job-seekers.
Eligibility to Apply for UI Benefits in Tennessee
In order to gain eligibility for unemployment benefits in Tennessee, the applicants must display that they meet all the qualification requirements. The qualification requirements are largely grouped into three parts- monetary eligibility, job-separation requirement, and maintaining eligibility after qualification.
The DLWD has established some fixed monetary criteria to qualify for UI benefits. The gist of the monetary criteria is that the applicants must have worked for a minimum period in the base period. In the base period, the applicants are expected to have earned a minimum amount of wages as prescribed by the DLWD.
It would be beneficial for the applicants to acquaint themselves with some basic topics to get a better understanding of the monetary eligibility requirements:
Calendar quarters: A calendar quarter is a three-month period in a base period. A year will consist of four calendar quarters – January to March, April to June, July to September, and October to December.
Base year: The state of Tennessee uses a standard base period to validate if the applicants qualify for UI benefits. A standard base period will be the first four of the last five calendar quarters before the quarter you filed for benefits.
Qualifying Wages: Qualifying wages are the wages that an applicant is expected to earn during the base period. To qualify for unemployment benefits in Tennessee, the applicants must have received a minimum of $780.01 in each of the 2 quarters.
Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA): Weekly benefit amount is the amount that the applicant will receive if he/she qualifies for UI benefits.
The UI benefits are determined by the wages earned by the applicant during the base period. The wages earned by the applicant during the base period, the higher will be the WBA that an applicant may receive. However, there is a maximum limit for WBA set by the state. Maximum weekly benefit amount that an applicant can earn in Tennessee is $275.
You are allowed to earn $50 or 25 percent of your weekly benefit amount, whichever is higher, without risking a deduction from your weekly benefits. For instance, if you received a weekly benefit amount of $275, you may earn up to 25 percent of it, which is $68.75 and still receive the full $275 benefits at the end of the week.
If your weekly earnings are beyond this prescribed limit, the excessive amount will be deducted from your WBA. If in the event, your weekly earnings are more than the WBA itself, your benefits will be stopped by the DLWD.
Once the applicant establishes his/her monetary eligibility, the DLWD will then look into how the applicant separated from his/her previous employment. The DLWD has grouped the reasons for separation into three broad groups-
Lack of Work: If an applicant was laid off, or the position was abolished, or the business closed, or the plant shut down, his/her case would be considered as ‘lack of work’.
Quit: If an applicant voluntarily quit a suitable work without good cause attributable to the employer, his/her case will be considered a ‘quit’.
Discharged?: If an applicant was dismissed for violation of company rules, neglected given job responsibilities, etc., his/her case will be considered as ‘discharged’.
If an applicant is found to have quit from the previous organization or was discharged for work-related misconduct, he/she will not qualify for UI benefits. It is mandatory that the applicant must not have lost his/her job due to any attributable fault of the applicants, which includes voluntary quitting from employment.
Any applicant will be qualified for unemployment benefits in Tennessee once he/she satisfies monetary requirements and job-separation requirements. However, it does not guarantee that the applicant will receive UI benefits during the benefit period unhindered.
If it is found that the applicant has not followed the prescribed guidelines or is found to have used unethical or illegal methods to receive UI benefits, the said benefits will immediately stand canceled.
Some of the reasons that could lead to the termination of unemployment benefits in Tennessee are:
- You were not physically able to work during your benefit period. There are special provisions for individuals who become ill or disabled after filing an initial claim. As a result, the claimant must bring any such cases to the notice of DLWD immediately Failing to do so will lead to the cancelation of UI benefits
- You are not available to work during your benefit period. If you fail to show that you were available for work and were regularly in search of suitable employment through documenting work search activity each week, you will lose your UI benefits. However, there are two exceptions to this rule-
- The first exception is that you were attending a DLWD-approved training program
- The second exception is that you are facing a temporary lay-off, and have a definite return-to-work date from your employer
- If you fail to contact at least three prospective employers each week as a part of work search activity unless exempted by the DLWD
- If it is discovered that you have lied about your wages or previous employment details or regarding your work-search activity, your UI benefits will be canceled
- Rejecting to accept a suitable job offer without a good reason will also lead to the cancelation of UI benefits
- Your UI benefits will be canceled if it is found that you have participated in a labor dispute other than a lockout that is in progress
How to Apply For UI Benefits in Tennessee
In order to apply for unemployment benefits in Tennessee, applicants must have the following documents:
You must submit an online application for avail UI benefits in the state of Tennessee. To submit your application, log on to https://www.jobs4tn.gov/vosnet/Default.aspxand start your application by entering your personal details and your previous employment information.
In the event, if you are not equipped with the required devices to submit an online application, reach out to the DLWD on 844-224-5818 to find out about alternative methods to apply for benefits.
The state of Tennessee also offers a unique service where it allows the claimants to apply for benefits through a mobile app. The Jobs4TN, from which you can apply for UI benefits, can be downloaded on App Store or Google Play.
UI Benefit Amount
To find out the approximate UI benefits amount that you may be eligible to receive in Tennessee, use the Unemployment Insurance Benefits Calculator. This gives you a close estimation of the benefits that you may be eligible to receive.
Things to Know After Filing An Application
There are various rules and regulations that one needs to be aware of to receive UI benefits unhindered every week. The DLWD also provides various training opportunities and other job-seeking opportunities in its portal.
Hence, to be aware of the regulations as well as the opportunities, the claimant must be informed about some important information post filing for application to have a fruitful benefit period.
Overpayments and Fraud
An overpayment occurs when the claimants draw more benefits amount from the DLWD than what they are eligible to receive. If it is found that you have received an overpayment from the DLWD in your benefit period, the department will mail a Notice of Overpayment to you, addressing the occurrence of an overpayment.
The notice will contain information on how the overpayment occurred, the amount of overpayment received, and the penalties that the claimant may have to pay. It will also contain your right to appeal against the decision of the department.
The DLWD has recognized some of the reasons for the occurrence of the overpayment. The following reasons should help to realize the common pitfalls and steer away from unethical practices-
Improper Wage Reporting: At the time of a claimant’s weekly certification, a question is asked on how much money was earned by the claimant in the previous week. If the gross amount of wages are not entered (even if they have not yet been paid) or is entered incorrectly, this could result in an overpayment.
Failure to Report your “Return to Work” dates: Applicants must make sure that any new employment accepted since the previous claim must be mentioned during certification.
Every week, during the process of certification for the respective week’s UI benefits, the following question will be asked – “Have you taken a job and were laid off, quit or discharged since your last claim was filed?”
If you were employed for just one day, you will technically be considered re-employed. Even if you quit the job just the following day, your answer for the above question must be a”YES”. which means you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits since you quit that job.
An Employer’s Appeal: If your employer contests the decision of providing you UI benefits and wins the appeal, all the benefits you received until this point will be considered an overpayment. Since the appeals process may take several weeks, the benefits you were paid would need to be returned to the UI Recovery Unit.
The above-mentioned reasons can take place with or without your knowledge, but it would still be considered an overpayment. The claimant’s intention, however, will decide the category of the overpayment, which can be either a non-fraud overpayment or fraud overpayment.
non-fraud overpayment: If you receive an excessive amount for reasons that you are not directly responsible or due to mistakes you committed unintentionally, it will be considered as a non-fraud overpayment.
In this case, you are liable to replay the entire overpayment you received. Only cases of hardship may be considered by DLWD for a waive-off.
Fraud overpayment: This occurs when you intentionally provide false information or withhold important information to receive UI benefits. Such an act will be considered as a very serious offense and can result in a criminal prosecution against the claimant.
In the case of fraud overpayment, you will not only be asked to repay the excessive amount received, but you will also have to pay a penalty to the DLWD.
There are no extension programs available in the state of Tennessee as of 2019. Claimants are advised to contact the DLWD to find out more on the reemployment programs before the end of the benefit period.
Job Training Assistance
The DLWD provides a host of opportunities to job-seekers in the form of financial aid, grants and various training programs for those who are seeking to improve their skills.
American Job Center Scholarships: These scholarships are given to those are looking to go back to school to complete a program or get re-trained in a new skill. The training program must be for a job listed on the targeted occupations list for Tennessee.
Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA): The TAA program is designed to help those who have lost their jobs or whose working hours are reduced as a result of increased imports. The program offers a variety of benefits and services to trade-affected individuals. The agenda of the program is to help these individuals find suitable job opportunities at the earliest.
SNAP Employment & Training: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training are designed to help the SNAP participants obtain job readiness skills.
The DLWD provides various other programs as per the requirements of the job-seekers. Contact the department on 844-224-5818 if you have any specific needs in mind that need more clarification.