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Pennsylvania Unemployment Guide

What Pennsylvania Residents Need to Know About Unemployment Benefits

Have you recently lost your job? If so, you may qualify for unemployment benefits: money paid by the state to those who are temporarily out of work.

This site provides clear, accurate information on collecting unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania, including:

Here are three things to keep in mind as you get started:

1. You may be eligible for benefits even if you quit or were fired for cause. 

Some people mistakenly believe that unemployment is available only to employees who are laid off. However, you don't have to lose your job in a layoff to qualify for benefits. The key question is whether you are out of work without fault on your part. So, if you were forced to quit your job in lieu of being fired, or you were fired because you don't have the necessary skills for your job, you could still be eligible for benefits. 

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How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania's unemployment insurance agency website gives you the information you need to apply for unemployment insurance in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation’s website tells you:

  • What information you’ll need on hand to apply for unemployment insurance benefits
  • How to apply online for unemployment insurance benefits
  • How to apply for unemployment insurance benefits by phone by calling the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation at 888-313-7284
  • How to calculate the amount of unemployment insurance benefits you can receive, and
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Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

You qualify for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania if you meet two basic requirements:

  • you must have earned at least a minimum amount in the time before you lost your job, and
  • you must be out of work through no fault of your own.

If you meet these two qualifications when you apply, you will likely be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. (To keep receiving benefits after you are found eligible, you will also have to meet your state’s job search requirements; to learn more, see What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?)

Eligibility Requirement 1: Minimum Earnings

In every state, unemployment benefits are available only to those who are temporarily out of work. If you apply after being out of the workforce for years, for example, you won’t qualify for benefits. You must have been employed relatively recently, and earned at least a minimum amount, to be eligible.

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How Much Will I Collect in Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you can earn up to $561 per week in unemployment benefits. 

Every state has its own rules for calculating unemployment benefits. Typically, the amount you receive each week is based on your earnings when you were employed. After all, unemployment benefits are intended to replace some of the income you lost along with your job, and tide you over until you find new work.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

Your weekly unemployment benefit amount depends on your earnings during the base period.

Currently, the most you can receive each week is $561 per week; the minimum amount you can receive is $68 per week. These limits are adjusted from time to time for inflation.

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How Long Will My Unemployment Benefits Last in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, you can receive unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks.

Each state sets its own rules for how long unemployment benefits last. Until quite recently, virtually all states offered a maximum of 26 weeks of benefits. In the last five or six years, however, some states have changed their rules on duration of benefits (in most cases, to offer benefits for a shorter period of time).

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What Do I Have to Do to Keep Receiving Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

After your application for unemployment insurance benefits is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, you can’t just sit back and collect benefits—you have to do certain things to stay eligible. After your initial claim for unemployment benefits is approved in Pennsylvania. You have to:

  • be unemployed or underemployed (generally, earning close to what you receive in weekly benefits)
  • be able and available to work
  • be actively looking for work, and
  • file to continue to receive benefits.

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Can I Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

If the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation denies you unemployment insurance benefits, you can appeal. After you file your initial claim for unemployment benefits, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation will send you a written determination of your eligibility for benefits and, if it finds you eligible, how much you will receive in benefits. But, if the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation finds that you are not eligible for benefits or grants you benefits in a lower amount than you believe you are entitled to, you can appeal that decision. And, if the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation finds you eligible to receive benefits, your ex-employer can appeal that decision.

If you want to appeal the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation decision, check the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation website and handbook for:

  • Any forms and instructions for filing your appeal
  • The deadline for filing your appeal
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Do I Need a Lawyer to Get Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

Having your own lawyer to represent you in the unemployment insurance benefits process in Pennsylvania will level the playing field for you—because your ex-employer will be represented. Your ex-employer is almost certainly going to have a lawyer or two offering guidance through the Pennsylvania unemployment process. This legal advice can give your ex-employer an edge over you in the process, especially if they intend to challenge your claim for benefits. Your own lawyer can:

  • Help you figure out if you are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in Pennsylvania
  • Tell you if your employer’s stated reason for terminating you is valid and will bar benefits
  • Guide you through Pennsylvania’s unemployment insurance benefits claim process
  • Advise you on how to keep receiving unemployment insurance benefits, and
  • Assist you if you need to appeal a denial of unemployment insurance benefits by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation

Check the website of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation before you see a lawyer to get information about applying for unemployment benefits and your rights and obligations under the unemployment laws of Pennsylvania. The website and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation claimant handbook, Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Handbook, have answers to your questions about the filing process. To find a lawyer in Pennsylvania, check the Pennsylvania Bar Association lawyer referral services and the lawyer directory of Nolo.com.

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Five Ways an Unemployment Lawyer Can Help You

If you have a straightforward unemployment claim, you will likely be able to file for unemployment benefits on your own, without any help from a lawyer. Your claim is relatively simple if you can easily meet the Pennsylvania earnings requirements to qualify for benefits, and you and your employer agree that you lost your job through no fault of your own (for example, because you were laid off or had to quit when your military spouse was transferred to another state).

But if your case is more complicated, it might make sense to consult with or hire an unemployment lawyer to represent you. An unemployment lawyer can help you:

  1. Prove that you were not fired for misconduct. In every state, you will be ineligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct. Each state defines misconduct a bit differently, and there can be a lot of wiggle room in the definition. If your employer fights your claim for unemployment on the grounds that you were fired for misconduct, you should consider talking to a lawyer.
  2. Prove that you did not quit voluntarily. Unemployment benefits are not available if you quit your job voluntarily. However, if your employer forced you to quit, you are still eligible for benefits. And, in many state, you will qualify for benefits if you had compelling personal reasons to quit, such as an ailing relative you must care for or domestic violence. An unemployment lawyer can help you figure out whether you are eligible for benefits – and prove it to the unemployment agency. more...  

Paying an Unemployment Lawyer

If you are out of work and you may be – or already have been – denied unemployment benefits, you may be wondering whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help with your unemployment case. It all depends on your financial situation and how (and how much) the attorney charges. In some situations, an unemployment attorney may be willing to offer you a contingency fee arrangement. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award. 

Below, we explain some typical attorney fee arrangements in unemployment cases. 

Initial Consultation

Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether it makes sense to fight your employer in an unemployment claim, appeal, or lawsuit – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together. 

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