An Overview of Maryland's Unemployment Benefits Program

In Maryland, if an individual is terminated or performs less than full-time work that individual may be entitled to unemployment benefits.  Unemployment benefits are designed to protect individuals from involuntary unemployment.  To obtain unemployment benefits, an individual needs to apply for unemployment insurance benefits with the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR).  (An individual applying for benefits is called a claimant.) From there, the DLLR will determine whether the claimant is eligible for benefits and the amount of benefits that the claimant is eligible to receive. 

Who Is Eligible

To be eligible for unemployment benefits, a claimant must have worked for someone else or a company.  (Independent contractors are not eligible for unemployment benefits.   Depending on the circumstances, even if there is a contract identifying someone as an independent contractor, by law that person may be considered an employee.  Thus, depending on the circumstances, that claimant may be eligible for benefits.  Checking with an attorney to determine if someone is considered a contractor can help your claim.)  If a claimant worked for an organization that operated primarily for religious purposes that claimant may not be eligible for benefits.  Furthermore, to qualify for benefits, a claimant must have worked at least two of the first four quarters within the last five quarters and must have earned sufficient wages.

To receive benefits, the claimant must be (1) able to work, (2) available for work, and (3) actively seeking work. “Able to work” means that a claimant is physically and mentally capable of working.  The claimant does not need to be physically and mentally capable of performing their last job, just capable of performing another job.  As for determining whether someone is available for work, a temporary medical impairment could delay the receipt of benefits if the impairment renders a claimant unable to work.   While receiving benefits, a claimant must apply for work, accept suitable work when offered, or return to self-employment when directed to do so.  An analysis of whether work is suitable focuses on a range of factors.  During the duration of the period that a claimant is obtaining benefits, the claimant needs to file proof that they continue to meet these three criteria and also that their claim for benefits is continuing.  Failure to properly file can result in the loss of benefits. 

To receive the full amount of benefits, a claimant must be terminated for a reason that does not constitute misconduct or have quit their job with good cause.  If the claimant is terminated from their job for simple misconduct or quits their job for valid circumstances, the claimant will still be eligible for benefits, but will subject to a penalty.  If a claimant quits their job without good cause and valid circumstances, or if the claimant is terminated for gross misconduct or aggravated misconduct, benefits will most likely be denied.  If an employee resigns in the face of being discharged, their resignation is treated as a discharge.  If the claimant received severance pay the receipt of benefits may be delayed.

Appeals

DLLR’s decision to award benefits will focus on the reason the claimant left their job and the claimant’s availability for work.  If a claimant is not awarded benefits at the initial level, the claimant may appeal the decision.  Similarly, if an employer believes that the claimant should not be awarded benefits, the employer can appeal the decision.  Appeals must be filed within 15 days of the date of delivery of the determination notice.  The first level of appeals is heard by a hearing examiner.  The decision by the hearing examiner can be appealed to the Board of Appeals.  Either party can appeal the Board of Appeals decision and have the matter heard by the circuit court.  

If a claimant is awarded benefits, the claimant will receive benefits during the course of their employer’s appeal.  Benefits will only cease if there is a finding in favor of an employer.  If an employer is successful in their appeal, a claimant may have to repay DLLR the benefits received.    Similarly, if a claimant is overpaid benefits, the claimant may have to pay those benefits back.  (If a claimant was overpaid because he or she provide of false statements, the claimant will have to pay DLLR back with interest and could be subject to other penalties).

Conclusion

There is an abundance of case law that can be used to strengthen a claimant’s or a company’s chance of success when applying for benefits.   This case law provides parameters as to whether or not a claimant should be awarded benefits and for how long those benefits should be awarded.  An attorney well versed in this sort of law can be a valuable asset in an unemployment hearing.  If you need legal assistance in your unemployment hearing, contact the Law Office of Phillip E. Chalker at phillip@attorneychalker.com or (443) 961-7345.