Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Although the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) administers the unemployment insurance program, it is technically not a public benefit because it is generally not funded by government monies. The funds actually come from a tax that employers must pay. Because a former employee’s receipt of benefits may affect an employer’s contribution rate, employers often protest claims.

If you are out of work in New York, and your separation from employment is for a non-disqualifying reason, you may qualify to collect unemployment insurance. The NYSDOL initially determines if you are eligible for unemployment insurance and determines the amount of benefits you will receive and for how long you will receive the benefits.

The NYSDOL will determine your unemployment insurance benefits by first looking at how much you earned during your “basic base period” or your “alternate base period,” which may give you a higher weekly amount of benefits. In New York, the basic base period is the earliest four of the last five complete quarters of the calendar year before you filed for benefits. The alternate base period is the last four complete calendar quarters. This means that the base period will not count your employment in the current calendar quarter when you apply for benefits.


To determine your eligibility for unemployment insurance, the amount you are entitled to receive and the length of time you will receive benefits, the NYSDOL considers several factors, including:

  • Past earnings – in order to collect unemployment insurance, you must have earned wages in at least two of the four calendar quarters that make up the base period. If you have been out of work for a long period of time, you will not be eligible to collect benefits. In addition, for claims filed in 2018, during the highest paid quarter of the base period, you must have earned at least $2,100, and your total earnings during the base period must be at least one-and-a-half times your earnings in the highest paid quarter.
  • Reasons for unemployment – in order to collect unemployment insurance, you must be out of work through no fault of your own. If you separate from employment for a disqualifying reason, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits until you have worked again and earned at least ten times your weekly benefit rate. For instance, if you are fired for misconduct on the job, such as violating company rules or policies, stealing from your employer or failing a drug test, you may not qualify for unemployment benefits. Also, if you quit your job or refuse a job without good cause, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if you become unemployed due to being laid off or for a reduction in work-force or sometimes even because you are not qualified for the job or cannot meet the standards of the employer, you should be able to collect unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Availability and capability – in order to continue receiving unemployment insurance, you must look for work and be ready, willing, and able to work immediately if you receive a job offer. You must also keep written records of your efforts to find a new job. If you refuse a job without good cause, you will be disqualified from receiving benefits.

Benefits Available

The first step in obtaining unemployment insurance benefits is to file a claim with the NYSDOL. These claims can be filed online or over the telephone. The NYSDOL will receive and review your application and then send you a Monetary Determination, which states whether you are entitled to receive unemployment insurance and indicates the amount of the benefit.

After your claim is granted, you must request payment each week and meet any ongoing eligibility requirements, such as looking for a job, certifying for benefits each week, and reporting to any required appointments. You are allowed to receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. The NYSDOL will determine your weekly unemployment benefit based on the number of calendar quarters in which you were paid wages and the amount of wages you were paid in each calendar quarter in your base period. However, as of October 2017, there is a maximum benefit of $435 per week, regardless of how much you were earning during the base period.

Appeal Process

The Monetary Determination will also inform you if your claim is denied because you have not met the necessary requirements. If your claim is denied or if the amount of the benefit is lower than you think it should be, you can file a Request for Reconsideration with the NYSDOL. The NYSDOL will then review your request and consider any additional information you provided. The NYSDOL can issue a revised determination if it incorrectly denied your claim or incorrectly calculated the benefit amount.

If the NYSDOL determines that you are ineligible for benefits, you will receive a Notice of Determination. If you disagree with this determination, you can appeal it by requesting a hearing, in writing, within 30 days. If your former employer protests your eligibility, and the NYSDOL determines that you are eligible for benefits, your former employer can request a hearing. The hearing will be before an administrative law judge who will take testimony and documentary evidence, and then issue a written decision either sustaining, overruling, or modifying the NYSDOL’s initial determination.

If you appeared at a hearing and disagree with the decision by the administrative law judge, you have can appeal that decision to the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board. The Appeal Board will review the record of the hearing (but not take any new evidence), and issue its own written decision. If you still disagree with the outcome, you can file a civil case in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court.

Legal Editor: Jacob Korder, January 2018

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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