Unemployment Compensation Benefits in Louisiana (FAQs)
Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (New Orleans office)
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Can I get Unemployment Benefits in Louisiana? +
Yes. Louisiana does have an Unemployment Compensation program. The rules on who gets benefits are not always simple. Sometimes the rules aren't followed. This happens a lot. Get legal help if you need it. Also, file an appeal on each denial. If you had more than one job in the recent past, this can get confusing. The time period for appeals is very short: only 15 calendar days (this counts weekends and holidays) from the mailing date of the notice.
I was fired. Can I still get unemployment benefits? +
Most people who get unemployment benefits have been fired. You may be able to get benefits even if you were fired for doing something your employer did not like, or that was against job rules.
Your ability to get benefits depends on all the facts, including if you did not mean to do wrong. For example:
- Mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes on the job. You should not be disqualified for simple mistakes.
- Tardies and absences. Everyone is late or can't get to work sometimes. You should not be disqualified, if you tried to follow job policies like calling in. You should not be disqualified if it wasn't your fault (for example, your car broke down or you or a child were sick).
- Poor performance. If you tried your best to do the job, you should not be disqualified.
- Positive drug or alcohol tests. Your employer has to follow its own rules when it asks you take a test. If your employer or the lab breaks the rules, you should not be disqualified for benefits.
I don't know if I was fired or not. My employer just never called me back. Can I apply for unemployment benefits? +
Yes. If your employer has not called you back to work at your normal time, or took you off the work schedule, you can apply for unemployment benefits. You do NOT have to have proof of being fired. Just tell the agency what happened. It can help if you have text messages or email showing you were sent home with no return date, or that you've asked to come back to work.
I quit my job. Can I still get unemployment benefits? +
Maybe. In Louisiana, you may get unemployment benefits only if you can show you had "good cause" to leave your job because of a "substantial change" made to your job by your employer. For example:
- reduction in pay;
- increase or decrease in hours;
- change in working conditions, such as sexual harassment or other illegal discrimination, or new dangers on the job; or
- work site moved farther away.
You can NOT get unemployment benefits if you leave a job for personal reasons. Examples of personal reasons include:
- Your car breaks down;
- You, your spouse or a family member is sick;
- Starting school and having a scheduling conflict.
My boss told me to resign or be fired, and I quit. Can I get unemployment benefits? +
Maybe. If you are forced to resign, the agency is supposed to treat your claim like you were fired.
I am not a citizen of the United States. Can I apply for unemployment benefits? +
You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to get benefits. But, you have to show that you are in this country as a lawful permanent resident, or "permanently residing under color of law" in the United States. If you have a question about your immigration status, talk with an immigration lawyer.
My employer never gave me a pink slip. Can I still apply for unemployment benefits? +
Yes. When you lose a job, your employer is suppoed to give you a "pink slip" (separation notice and file a copy with the state. Many employers don't do it, but you can still apply for benefits without it. It is illegal for you to be turned away from filing for benefits for not having a pink slip. If that happens, get help from a lawyer or apply online on the Louisiana Workforce Commission website.
How and where do I apply for unemployment benefits? +
The agency takes claims by phone or over the internet. Local state Louisiana Workforce Commission offices should let you use their phones and computers. You can reach the Louisiana call center at: 1-866-783-5567. You can also apply online at the Louisiana Workforce Commission's website. If the agency refuses to let you apply, contact a lawyer.
What do I do after applying? What happens next? +
Protect your rights:
- Keep your records straight. You'll get many notices from the agency, ESPECIALLY if your claim involves more than one employer. The papers can get confusing. Keep all your papers in one place, or in an envelope or folder.
- Read notices right away. Because the appeal time is so short, you can lose your rights if you don't act quickly (within the 15 days).
When you file, the agency looks at your claim and:
- Sends a "Monetary Determination" Notice. Read this carefully. Mistakes are often made here. Make sure all your earnings and jobs for the time period are listed. If it's wrong, you have a year to appeal. But, it's best to appeal right away. Maybe you can show the agency your check stubs, tax returns, or W-2 forms. You may need a lawyer if you don't have written proof.
- Sends each employer notice of your claim once it finds you eligible, and gives each employer the chance to file a "protest" on your claim.
- Sends a “Qualifying” or “Disqualifying” notice to you and each employer covered by your claim. If the notice is against you (“Disqualifying”), appeal right away and keep on with weekly reporting. If the notice is in your favor (“Qualifying”), you should get your weekly benefits right away, plus any past-due benefits, and your employer can appeal. Keep on with weekly reporting.
The state started to give me benefits, but then my former employer appealed. What are my rights? Will my benefits stop? +
Just like you, former employers affected by your claim have the right to appeal. A former employer is likely to have a legal representative at the hearing, or to have someone there who has more experience than you do when it comes to dealing with a hearing judge. As soon as you learn of an appeal, speak with a lawyer yourself to try to get advice or representation at the hearing.
However, your weekly benefits should continue, if you are otherwise eligible, unless and until a decision is made by a hearing judge against you. If your benefits stop before a hearing decision, talk with a lawyer right away. You might also try to speak with a supervisor at the state agency office, to try to get your benefits continued.
I applied four (4) weeks ago and I've heard nothing. What can I do? +
The short appeal time may give you the idea that claims are handled quickly by the state Louisiana Workforce Commission. This is not the case. You can:
- complain to the agency;
- complain to your state legislator;
- complain to the press;
- talk with a lawyer.
What happens if I appeal a disqualification? Do I have a hearing? What are my rights at the hearing? +
The agency sets your case for a hearing before an administrative law judge (who usually is not a lawyer). The hearing is on the telephone and is recorded. The judge sends you a letter with the hearing date, time and place, and the reason for the hearing. If you need more time to prepare, ask the judge to postpone the hearing and set it on another day. READ THE NOTICE CAREFULLY to understand your rights.The judge must also explain in writing your rights at the hearing. These rights include the right to:
- speak for yourself
- have witnesses with important information speak
- bring papers to show the judge
- question any witness your employer brings
- object to improper evidence or testimony
If you want a witness or document but cannot get them to the hearing without an order from the judge (a "subpoena"), ask the judge for an order in writing, as soon as you know you need it. The judge can let a witness speak by telephone, if needed. You can object to that if you feel the witness can or should be there in person.
To find free legal help click here for the legal services directory.
What if the judge decides against me? What can I do? +
The judge must send you a decision. The judge does not have to send your lawyer a copy.
- If the decision is in your favor, and you have not received benefits yet, the agency should start paying you right away. You must get your benefits even if your employer appeals.
If the decision is against you, you have only 15 calendar days to appeal. Appeal in writing to the "Board of Review," in Baton Rouge. The judge's decision has the Board of Review's address and the different ways you can appeal.
What does the Board of Review do with my appeal? +
The Board of Review does not hold another hearing, but can send your case back for a new hearing if one is needed. The Board of Review should send you a decision in 4-6 weeks. If the Board of Review decides in your favor, and your benefits have not started yet, the agency should send you your benefits right away.
What if the Board of Review decides against me - what are my rights then? +
You may file papers (Petition for Judicial Review) in the state district court for the parish in which you live. You have to file the right petition in the right court within 15 calendar days of the Board of Review's decision. Some courts have a form you can fill out, but most do not. If you can't finish the papers yourself, a lawyer may help. Click here to find a blank form Petition you can use if you don’t find a lawyer in time.
Filing in court is FREE. It is illegal in an Unemployment Benefits case for the court or sheriff to charge you, or to refuse to let you file without paying. You can find this law in Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 23 (La. R.S. 23:1692). If this happens, talking with a court supervisor may fix the problem. If you need more help, contact your nearest free legal services office right away. You can only be charged with court costs and fees if the court, at the end of your case, holds a hearing and finds you filed a claim with no legal basis at all. This would be very very rare.
What happens at the court? +
The court judge will not hear any more testimony from you or any other witness. The judge will look at your claim file (including the transcript of your hearing), and listen to your lawyer (if you have one). The judge will make a written decision, and send you or your lawyer a copy. If the decision is against you, you can appeal to a state appellate court.
I got benefits at first, then the agency changed its mind. Do I have to pay the money back? +
If the agency changes its mind on your claim after a hearing or after an appeal, it will send you an notice of overpayment asking you to pay the money back. You can appeal the overpayment and also ask for a waiver. Appeal quickly, within 15 calendar days. Go here to see the LouisianaLawHelp.org item on overpayments of unemployment benefits.
If you appeal the overpayment letter, you will have a hearing with an administrative law judge. If you want a waiver because you can't afford to pay the money back, explain this at the hearing. If you did not appeal the overpayment, you should still be able to ask for a waiver at any agency office. If the agency won't let you do that, talk with a lawyer. You should get a waiver if:
You told the truth in your claim and did not commit fraud;
The overpayment was not your fault; and
Making you pay the money back would be unfair (that is, you are too poor, or have too many other expenses, to pay the money back).
If the judge's decision is against you, you have the right to appeal to the Board of Review then on to the courts. The law on overpayments and waivers can be found in Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 23 (La. R.S. 23:1713).