Unemployment Benefits in Kentucky

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What is unemployment compensation?

Unemployment compensation is a program of weekly benefits paid to workers who have lost their jobs and are looking for new work. The money comes from a state insurance fund paid for by a tax on the state’s employers.

Are all workers eligible to get unemployment benefits?

Workers with the following kinds of jobs are not covered by the unemployment program:

  • Farm workers - Workers on small farms (i.e., less than ten regular employees) are usually not covered by unemployment.
  • Domestic Workers - Housekeepers, babysitters, and other workers in the home are covered only if their wages come to $1000 or more in a three-month period.
  • Workers for small (less than 4 employees) churches, charities or schools.
  • Children under 21 working for their parent, or under 18 delivering newspapers.
  • Someone working for their own spouse or child,
  • Students on educational work placements or internships.
  • Insurance Agents working only on commission.
  • Work by hospital patients or sheltered-workshop clients.

What are the basic eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits?

A worker must:

  1. apply for benefits;
  2. register for work;
  3. be physically and mentally able to work;
  4. be available for suitable work and actively looking for work; and
  5. have earned sufficient "base period" wages.

A worker who meets these conditions will be eligible for benefits, unless:

  • The worker has been let go from their job due to misconduct or dishonesty, or
  • The worker has quit their job without a good cause having to do with the employment. If the person quits because a sick child needs constant care at home, this would be good cause for quitting, but not good cause in relation to the employment. Such a worker would not be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if a worker quits because they cannot operate a piece of machinery necessary for their position, that would be good cause having to do with the employment and the worker should receive benefits.

What are "base period wages"?

The worker's "base period" is the first four (4) of the last five (5) complete calendar quarters just before the worker applies for benefits (e.g., if the claim is filed in February, the base period ended the previous September 30 and began the October 1 before that), but earlier calendar quarters may be substituted to make a worker eligible. There are other requirements as to the amount the worker had to have made, e.g., earnings must have been at least $750 in the highest quarter of the base period. You can use this unemployment benefit calculator to estimate benefits.

Can a worker eligible for benefits be denied or disqualified?

Yes, if the worker fails, without good reason, to keep looking for another job and fails to report to the Labor Cabinet showing where they have made application, the worker may be disqualified to receive benefits. Also, if the worker is referred for re-training and does not complete the training program, they may be disqualified from receive benefits.

If a person has been fired, should they apply for unemployment anyway, even though they may not be eligible?

Yes, because the employer bears the burden to prove that the worker was guilty of misconduct.

“Misconduct” means "intentional and substantial disregard of the employer's interests", in other words, doing something that the worker knows could harm the employer’s business, like breaking a rule which the worker knows is fair and reasonable, or being absent without good reason or without notifying the employer.

At a hearing, employers often do not meet their burden of proof, and the worker is allowed to have benefits even if their case is weak.

What are the time deadlines in connection with an unemployment claim?

A worker should apply for unemployment as soon as possible after they are laid off.

If the employer does not want their former worker to receive benefits (the claim will lead to the employer paying more into the state fund), it will file a protest.

In that case the worker (“claimant”) must go for an interview at the unemployment office. A decision is made by the staff person doing the interview.

If the claimant is denied benefits, he or she can appeal by sending a request for a hearing within 15 days. A hearing is scheduled (it may be held over the telephone), and the parties will be notified of the hearing. Notice of the hearing must be sent to the parties at lease 7 days prior to the hearing date.

The hearing is held, and a week or two later, a decision is mailed out.

Again, the claimant can file an appeal, this time to the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, within 15 days of the decision.

If the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission renders an unfavorable decision, the claimant may appeal to the Circuit Court.

The most important stage of an unemployment claim is the hearing. If at all possible, claimants should have an attorney attend the hearing with them.

For additional information concerning unemployment benefits and local office information see a publication from the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, Your Rights and Responsibilities While Claiming Unemployment Insurance Benefits [pdf file].

Reviewed August 2009