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Benefit Disqualifiers

Voluntary Quits

A person who leaves his most recent work voluntarily without good cause connected with his work shall be disqualified. The disqualification will be for the ensuing period of unemployment and until he has secured subsequent employment covered by an unemployment insurance law of this state or another state and earned 10 times his weekly benefit amount.

A person will be considered to have voluntarily quit when the person accepts a monetary incentive to voluntarily separate from employment under an employer’s program to reduce the work force if the monetary incentive is greater than the maximum amount of unemployment benefits the person would be eligible to receive.

Sick or Disabled (Section 50-7-303(a)(1))

A person forced to leave work because he was sick or disabled will be disqualified for benefits while he is unable to work. If an on-the-job injury resulted in the separation, the claimant must be able to work, but not necessarily to perform his usual duties.

The claimant will not be disqualified for benefits once he again becomes available and able for work if he:

1. presents competent medical proof that he was forced to leave work;
2. notifies his employer of that fact as soon as it is reasonably practical to do so;
3. returns to his employer and offers himself for work as soon as he is again able to work; and
4. is able to perform his former duties.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy shall be considered as any other sickness or disability.

Joining Armed Services

A person who leaves his work in good faith to join the armed forces of the United States will not be disqualified from receiving benefits.

Misconduct

A worker will be disqualified for benefits if the discharge was for misconduct in connection with his work. A misconduct disqualification lasts until the claimant has secured subsequent employment covered by an unemployment insurance law and earned 10 times his weekly benefit amount (WBA).

Courts have used the following definition to determine if misconduct has occurred:

Misconduct is limited to conduct evincing such willful or wanton disregard of an employer’s interest as is found to be deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which the employer has the right to expect of his employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of the employer’s interests or of the employee’s duties and obligations to his employer. On the other hand mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, failure in good performance as the result of inability or incapacity, or inadvertency or ordinary negligence in isolated instances or good faith errors in judgment or discretion are not to be deemed “misconduct”.” [Armstrong v. Neel, 725 S. W. 2d 953, 956 (Tenn. App. 1986.]

A claimant can be disqualified from benefits for misconduct for a drug or alcohol related separation. Any claimant discharged for failing a drug or alcohol test and/or the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace program will be considered discharged for misconduct, and therefore disqualified for unemployment benefits.

Refusal to Seek or Accept Suitable Work

A claimant who fails without good cause either to apply for available, suitable work or to accept suitable work when offered will be disqualified for benefits. This disqualification lasts until the claimant has secured subsequent employment covered by an unemployment insurance law and earned 10 times his weekly benefit amount (WBA).

Labor Disputes

A worker whose unemployment is due to a strike, which is in active progress, is not entitled to benefits for any week if he is participating in the strike or belongs to the class of workers participating in the strike.

A claimant who was indefinitely separated and eligible for benefits prior to the commencement of a labor dispute may continue to be eligible to receive benefits, even though he belongs to a grade or class of workers participating in the strike, so long as the individual is otherwise eligible and does not participate in the labor dispute.

No claimant will be denied benefits due to a lockout.

Wages in Lieu of Notice

A claimant is not entitled to any benefits for any week for which he is receiving wages in lieu of notice. Wages in lieu of notice are payments that are equivalent to the wages the individual would have earned had the individual been permitted to work during the period of notice.

Severance Pay (Section 50-7-303(b)(2)(B))

Severance pay, separation allowances, and similar payments are based, at least in part, on the services the employee performed or on the length of time the employee worked for the employer.

Since these payments are for prior services, claimants can receive unemployment benefits while receiving these types of payments.

Monetary Incentives to Voluntarily Separate from Employment

A person who is offered and accepts a monetary incentive to voluntarily separate from employment under an employer’s plan for work force reduction, due to lack of work, will be considered to have voluntarily quit if the monetary incentive is greater than the maximum amount of unemployment benefits the person would be eligible to receive. Such persons will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Persons who get monetary incentives less than the maximum amount of benefits they are eligible to receive can still draw benefits when they voluntarily separate from employment under an employer’s plan for a work force reduction, due to lack of work. Monetary incentives do not include wages in lieu of notice, separation allowance, severance pay, or similar payments.

Workers’ Compensation (Section 50-7-303(a)(5)(B))

A claimant is not entitled to any unemployment benefits for any week for which he is receiving compensation for temporary partial disability under the Workers’ Compensation Law.

Benefits from Another State

A claimant is not entitled to any Tennessee unemployment insurance benefits for any week in which he is receiving or seeking unemployment insurance benefits from another state or from the United States.

Vacation Pay (Section 50-7-303(a)(9))

A claimant’s weekly benefit payment is reduced or eliminated by the amount of vacation pay received for any week of vacation, vacation shutdown, or temporary layoff. Benefit payments, however, are not reduced or eliminated by vacation pay received for any week of permanent or indefinite layoff.

Retirement, Pensions, Social Security

Retirement and pension pay is not deducted from a claimant’s weekly benefit amount (WBA) if the claimant contributed anything to the retirement or pension plan during his base period.

Retirement and pension funds are not deducted from a claimant’s WBA if 100% of the funds are rolled over into an IRA.

Retirement or pension pay will be deducted from a claimant’s WBA if retirement or pension pay came from a plan with a base period employer who made 100% of the contributions that were paid into the plan during the claimant’s base period.

Retirement or pension pay will not be deducted from a claimant’s WBA if the retirement or pension pay came from a source other than one of the claimant’s base period employers.

Social security payments are not deducted from a claimant’s WBA.

Military retirement pay will not be deducted from a claimant’s WBA unless the branch of service was a base period employer.

Training

A claimant will not be denied benefits for not being available for work if the claimant is enrolled in a vocational training school or other course of study approved by the Commissioner.

G. I. Bill

A claimant will not be denied benefits for not being available for work if the claimant is a veteran going to school under the G.I. Bill unless the claimant is offered and refuses the same job he held immediately prior to entering school under the G.I. Bill.

School Attendance (Section 50-7-302(a)(4)(D))

A claimant will not be denied benefits for not being available for work if he was attending school while he was employed by his separating employer as long as he is still available for work during the same hours that he had worked prior to his separation. The claimant will be denied benefits if the claimant is offered and refuses the same job he held immediately prior to entering school.

A claimant will be denied benefits for not being available for work if he en-rolled in school after his separation from employment and his primary objective is to obtain an education. This does not apply if the claimant is attending school on the G.I. Bill. (see G.I. Bill above).

Professional Sports

An individual whose services consist of participating in sports or athletic events or training or preparing to participate in sports or athletic events cannot be paid unemployment benefits between two successive sports seasons if this individual performed services in the first season and there is reasonable assurance that the individual will perform the same services in the second season.

Illegal Aliens (Section 50-7-302(b)(4))

An individual who has not been lawfully admitted for permanent residence or who does not otherwise legally reside in the United States is not eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

When an individual files a claim for benefits, he is asked if he is a citizen of the United States. All non-citizens are required to provide documentary evidence that they are authorized to work in the United States before their claim for unemployment benefits are approved. A claimant will be asked to prove citizenship if the claims taker has reason to suspect that the claimant is not a citizen of the United States.

Educational Employees

An individual performing any services for an educational institution, or for a governmental educational service agency, is not eligible to receive benefits between two academic years or terms if the individual performed services in the first academic year or term and there is reasonable assurance that the individual will perform services in the second academic year or term.

An individual employed by an educational institution is not eligible to receive benefits during an established and customary vacation period or holiday recess that has been predetermined as part of a school calendar year.

Profiled Claimants Referred to Reemployment Services

A claimant, identified through the Department’s profiling system for referral to reemployment services, will be disqualified from benefits if the claimant is not participating in the reemployment services.

Partial Unemployment

Definition : A week of partial unemployment is a week in which an employee, due to lack of work, worked less than his regular full-time hours and earned less than his weekly benefit amount (WBA), but more than his deductible allowance. A claimant’s deductible allowance is the greater of $50 or 25% of the claimant’s WBA (see BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY, Deductible Allowance).