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Who Can Collect Unemployment In California?

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Apr 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

If you are a California worker who has been laid off you may be eligible to collect unemployment benefits. In California, employees who are temporarily out of work may qualify for unemployment.

Right now, many are out of a job in the state of California who might qualify. For victims who were unlawfully terminated, there may be a claim for compensation.

California Unemployment

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Key Points - Table of Contents

Eligibility For Unemployment Benefits

Employees who have been laid off or have seen their working hours diminished because of COVID-19 may be eligible for California unemployment benefits. In addition, they may also qualify if they cannot work if they've been ordered to quarantine or self-isolate, are caring for a family member who has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, or is looking after a child whose school has shut down due to the pandemic.

In order to meet eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits in California, you must meet a few requirements. Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds. You must have lost your job due to no fault of your own, as defined by the law in California. In addition, you must be able to work and be actively seeking work.

Past Earnings:

When you apply for unemployment, the state of California looks at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year base period to determine whether or not you are eligible for unemployment CA benefits. In California, the "base period" is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your claim for benefits.

During the base period, you must have earned at least $1,300 in your highest-paid quarter or you must have earned at least $900 in your highest-paid quarter and at least 1.25 times your earnings during that highest paid quarter.

Unemployment Reasons:

If you are applying for unemployment California law may or may not be in your favor based on a number of factors. It is important that you become unemployed due to no fault of your own in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. If you were laid off, lose your job as part of a reduction in force, or get downsized for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement. 

If you are fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or your employer was not satisfied with your job performance, you can still collect unemployment benefits. However, if you were fired due to misconduct, you become ineligible for unemployment benefits only if all four of the statements below are true:

  • You owed a "material" duty to your employer, which means a duty that is properly part of the job such as showing up to work on time or fulfilling your job duties.
  • You substantially breached that duty to your employer. Remember that a minor or one-time transgression is not good enough to disqualify you from receiving your benefits.
  • The breach of duty showed a "wanton or willful disregard" for that duty. This means the employee should have intentionally violated the duty and exhibited disregard for the consequences. Ineptitude, inefficiency, or other genuine errors in judgment don't meet this standard.
  • The employee's breach of duty should directly cause harm to the employer's business interests.

Can You Get California Unemployment If You Quit?

After leaving an employer, you may want to know If I quit my job can I collect unemployment?  If you voluntarily left your job, you can still collect unemployment benefits if you had a solid reason for quitting. If you had a good cause relating to your job such as discrimination, being sexually harassed, unsafe working conditions, retaliation, etc. In such situations, you should have taken reasonable steps to improve the situation before quitting. 

This might mean you talked about the problem with your employer and allowed a reasonable amount of time for him or her to resolve the situation before you quit. In the COVID-19 environment, if you left your job because you are in a high-risk environment or if you have to care for a family member who has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, you may still be able to collect unemployment benefits after quitting your job.

You Must Be Available To Work

In order to still be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, accept a job, and you must be actively looking for work. If you are offered a suitable position, you must accept it. The law requires you to conduct a reasonable job search and certify in your claim for benefits that you have done so. It is a good idea to maintain records of companies you may have called during the course of your job search and the outcome.


On March 27, the U.S. Congress passed a $2 trillion stimulus package. The law, known as The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides not only direct cash transfers to each adult but also expanded unemployment benefits. This new law provides for:

  • Cash payments of up to $1,200 for each qualifying adult, and $500 additional cash for each children age 16 or under.
  • An additional $600 per week over and above any state-provided unemployment benefits through July 31.
  • Up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits in addition to what is provided by the state of California, for up to 39 weeks.
  • Unemployment benefits for gig workers or those who are self-employed.

Resources For Employees During COVID-19

The Employment Development Department has launched a new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance page to keep people informed about eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits and the round-the-clock effort to build this new program from the CARES Act.

This complex program, which will serve those who normally don't qualify for unemployment such as the self-employed, is still in the developmental stages and could likely rival the size of the program the agency administers for unemployed workers.

If you or a loved one has lost a job due to factors involving the coronavirus pandemic or for other reasons, an experienced Los Angeles employment lawyer can help you evaluate your Coronavirus employment rights and options.

The knowledgeable lawyers at Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers are able to offer a no-win-no-fee guarantee to our clients, which means we do not charge you fees until we secure compensation for you.

Call us at (818) 990-8300 for a free, comprehensive, and confidential consultation.

Unfortunately, We Cannot Assist With Unemployment Claims. Those Who Have Been Wrongfully Terminated Are Encouraged To Contact Us.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

Eric B. Kingsley is a 2023 "Best In Law" Award winner and has litigated over 150 class actions. He is also an AV peer rated attorney and a prolific speaker at various seminars on employment law.


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