UI Part I -- The UI Claims Process

The Unemployment Insurance claims process.

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1. How Does a Worker Apply for Benefits and What Are the Problems with UI Online?

A worker whose employment stops or whose wages are reduced to the point that UI is available should immediately file a claim with DUA to capture all earnings in the worker's base period of the claim (See Question 7). Generally, the later the worker applies, the greater the likelihood of her receiving a reduced amount of unemployment benefits. For this reason, it is best to apply during the first week of total or partial unemployment. (See Question 9). The claim begins the Sunday of the calendar week in which the claim is filled, called "the effective claim date." With very limited exceptions, (See Question 5), UI will not be paid for any week preceding the effective date of a claim.

Workers who need to file a new claim, reopen a claim, continue to certify for UI benefits, check a claim/payment status, update personal information, file a waiver of overpayment, file an appeal, estimate future benefits, etc. can do so online. UI Online Services is available at https://www.mass.gov/unemployment-insurance-ui-online. The website is accessible daily from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Claimants previously using WebCert or TeleCert are able to use UI Online Services by providing their mother’s maiden name to set up a new password for UI Online Services. 

Additionally, DUA created a UI Online Claimant User Guide, which explains how to use the UI Online Services system. It is available at: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/qk/claimant-uiol-ug-02-claimant-logon-password-and-navigation.pdf

Claimants can change their correspondence preference (U.S. mail or email) by either calling the DUA call center and speaking with an agent (1-877-626-6800 toll-free for area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, 978 or 617-626-6800) or logging into their UI Online account and clicking: View and Maintain Account Information→ Contact information→ Correspondence Preference →Edit →How would you like to receive your correspondence?  □ Electronic □ US Mail. (See UI Online Claimant User Guide Claimant Activities - View and Edit Contact Information [p. 8].)

Note: Claimants who select U.S. mail as their correspondence preference will also receive notices in their UI Online Inbox but will not get email alerts.  Claimants who select email will not receive hard copies of DUA’s correspondence and need to be vigilant so that important time-limited opportunities are not lost. This is especially the case if the claimant is relying on a smartphone rather than a computer. DUA has warned that the UI Online view as it appears on a smartphone is problematic because attachments that contain important information cannot be accessed through a smartphone.

Problems with UI Online

UI Online is an English-only system. UI Online is primarily for those English-speaking claimants with high level reading ability, computer skills, and regular computer access (as over 338,514 households in Massachusetts have no internet subscription and the majority of these households have very low or moderate incomes, the increasing reliance on an on-line system has a disparate negative effect on low wage workers). (For more information about UI Online and LEP claimants, see Question 52.) 

The Board of Review has repeatedly acknowledged the technical barriers imposed on claimants by DUA’s filing and registration system on-line including the requirement to participate in the mandatory Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA), see Question 50) and found good cause in various situations.  See BR-0023 4469 28 (12/24/2018) (Claimant had good cause for submitting late certification , when a DUA error caused the online system to  not allow him to certify on time); BR 0025 1624 89 (9/24/2018) (Claimant had good cause for failing to complete RESEA review after gaining and losing a job within 10 days, as the email from a career center employee did not indicate the RESEA program would re-open when claimant began collecting UI again); BR-0025 6888 02 (9/6/2018) (Claimant showed justification for a late appeal after being locked out of his online account and repeatedly seeking assistance); BR-0025 1912 55 (7/30/2018) (Claimant had good cause for a late appeal, as his dyslexia rendered him unable to understand the DUA notice, and his multiple attempts to contact DUA for assistance were unsuccessful);BR-0023 4912 20 (4/30/18) (Claimant had good cause for failing to attend RESEA orientation seminar where he was unable to open the letter issued electronically notifying him to attend and the career counsellor could similarly not open the letter); BR-0022 3860 38 (1/19/18)(Good cause for granting a pre-date was found for a claimant who was forced to re-open his claim as he was in and out of unemployment every other week due to the employer’s unusual furlough program); BR-0020 8343 16 (9/25/17)(Failure of claimant to appeal 3 listed issues due to the “intricacies” of the UI Online system did not preclude Board from considering all 3 appeals); BR-0022 4579 70 (10/17/17)(where claimant received one notice that her training application had been approved and a second notice stating that the extended benefits had been denied, claimant was determined to have properly concluded that her training had been approved and that she did not have to participate in work search).

Workers unable to use UI Online should apply by telephone instead, using the telephone numbers listed below:     

  • For Area Codes 351, 413, 508, 774, and 978877-626-6800
  • For Area Code 617 and all others617-626-6800
  • TTY/TTD: 888-527-1912

Currently, information is provided to workers in most language either through DUA multilingual staff or through the use of a telephone multilingual language line.

Claimants can also schedule a callback from the TeleClaim Center by visiting https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-unemployment-assistance and selecting "Telephone Services."

DUA’s telephone services run 8:30 am–4:30 pm, Monday through Friday. To reach a DUA agent more quickly, advise claimants to call on Monday if the last digit of their Social Security number (SSN) is 0 or 1; Tuesday for SSN 2 or 3; Wednesday, 4, 5 or  6; Thursday, 7, 8 or 9; any last digit, Friday.

Claimants may also in person on a walk-in basis at the Boston DUA office, Charles F. Hurley Building, 19 Staniford Street, 1st Floor, Boston, MA 02114. In addition, at each of the MassHIRE Career Centers, claimants can get help from an individual referred to as a "UI Navigator" who will connect the claimant to DUA’s call-in assistance. Note: walk-in centers each have different hours of operation. The list of MassHIRE Career Centers and their hours are available at www.mass.gov/careercenters or at 1-877-US2JOBS. DUA policy is that Career Center staff will respond positively to all requests by claimants for assistance and help them navigate the UI Online system, including providing a tutorial on how to file a claim and/or in case of hardship, one-on-one assistance on how to enter the claim. As always, staff will serve all customers who come into the centers with questions. Interpreter services remain available for any LEP customers.

By statute, DUA must provide an in-person orientation within 15 days of the application and must inform the claimant about the determination process, eligibility criteria (including worker profiling), health insurance, and extended UI benefits while participating in training. G.L. c. 151A, § 62A (c). However, DUA does not provide this orientation in person any longer, and such failure may provide an advocacy handle.

DUA may impose a sanction on claimants of a 1-week suspension of UI benefits for failure to attend Career Center seminars if requested to do so by DUA, unless they have good cause; and where there is no finding of good cause, the sanction continues until the claimant attends the seminar. DUA imposes even more severe sanctions on claimants during periods of federal extended benefits. To schedule a Career Center seminar, call 1-800-653-5586 or call the nearest One-Stop MassHIRE Career Center. (See Question 50.)

All DUA notices must contain the address and telephone number of the regional office serving the individual, as well as a statewide toll-free number for telephone claims services (for area codes 351, 413, 502, 774, and 978, the number is 1-877-626-6800; for all other area codes, the number is 617-626-6800). Additionally, the statute requires DUA to prepare notices and materials explaining the right to file in English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Khmer, Russian, and any other language that is the language of one-half of 1% of all Massachusetts residents. G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(d)(iii). (See Question 52 for more information on DUA's obligations under this statute.)  A claimant is considered to have initiated a claim as of the date that she first contacts or  attempts to contact DUA. G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(f). This means that if the claimant is discouraged from filing or delays filing for some other reason determined to constitute "good cause," the claims filing date relates back to the date of first contact.

Note: Advocates have observed many instances where claimants are receiving multiple notices on the same day, e.g. a separation disqualification and a disqualification based on issues concerning availability to work. It is important that each disqualification is appealed separately to preserve the claimant's rights.

A UI Online application is deemed complete only when it is finished and the claimant gets a “confirmation page” that states the application has been submitted online or through the mail.

In 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature created a Special Commission to study the efficacy of the adjudication of claims by DUA.  Comprising members of the Legislature, state and municipal governments, and employer and employee advocacy groups, the Special Commission issued a comprehensive report that made eight recommendations to improve the efficacy of the DUA.  With respect to UI Online, the Special Commission recommended that the DUA: (1) continue its on-going review of UI Online’s design, accompanied by greater transparency and input by employers and claimants (e.g., focus groups to test new filing/response systems before implementation), and (2) ensure access to claimants of Limited English Proficiency, as well as access to filing by telephone (with the aid of customer assistance personnel) for claimants who cannot use UI Online.  See Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of the State Auditor, “Report of the Special Commission to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Activities and Efficacy of the Adjudication of Unemployment Insurance Claims by the Department of Unemployment Assistance,” at pp. 2-3, available at www.mass.gov/auditor/docs/special-reports/2016/ui-commission-report.pdf.

Advocates are urged to be vigilant when claimants raise issues of ineligibility due to problems with UI Online.  A report issued by the National Unemployment Law Project, Closing Doors on the Unemployed:  Why Most Jobless Workers Are Not Receiving Unemployment Insurance and What States Can Do About It, (“Closing Doors”), 2017, available at https://www.nelp.org/publication/closing-doors-onthe-unemployed/ has documented that Massachusetts is one of the 10 states with the steepest increase in denials for non-separation reasons and that 5 of these states, including Massachusetts had instituted new claims-filing systems.  Closing Doors, at p. 11.  And in a comparison of UI denial rates between 2012-2016 and 2007-2011, the MA percentage increase was 2266%. Closing Doors, at p. 23. 

Applying for UI from outside of Massachusetts

Claimants who work in Massachusetts and have moved to another state may still be eligible for UI by filing an "interstate claim." Interstate claims follow Massachusetts law (which is generally a more generous program than most other states). Interstate claims can be initiated through UI Online or by calling the Teleclaim Center. Claims will not be accepted from outside mainlain U.S., Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Canada and benefits should not be requested during any time the claimant is not in the US, its territories or Canada. (See Question 46 Combined Wage Claims (Interstate Claims)).

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2. What Information Does DUA Require?

DUA may ask a worker to furnish some or all of the following information when applying for unemployment:

  • name (in English), home address, mailing address, and telephone number;
  • Social Security number or card;
  • date of birth;
  • home address, telephone number and email address (if available);
  • proof of citizenship; or, if a non-citizen, proof of satisfactory immigration status, including an "alien" identification number, work authorization including expiration date, permanent resident alien card ("green card"), or other official documentation from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS, formerly INS) and a copy of the document (See Question 51);
  • names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all employers during the prior 15 months and the dates of work for each employer;
  • employment start and stop dates and recall dates;
  • union name and local number (if a union member);
  • check stubs or records of earnings, if available;
  • last day of work, reason for separation including any separation notice, termination notice or pink slip;
  • the state and county for any non-Massachusetts Child Support orders;
  • if choosing direct deposit (rather than debit card), bank account number and bank's routing transit number; (note: if this information is not provided, DUA will automatically provide UI benefits through a debit card);
  • name, date of birth, gender, and Social Security number for each dependent, including proof of dependency (any one of the following is acceptable: birth certificate, "green card," passport, Social Security card, school document, medical record, health insurance card, tax form. See BR-0027 4975 64 (3/28/19) (child’s birth certificate and Social Security card were sufficient to establish the claimant’s relationship with her child);
     See BR- 0024 6239 17 (12/24/2018) (Dependent child’s Social Security card and signed hospital birth record satisfied DUA identification requirements for a dependency allowance) (See Question 47); 
  • if applicable, a doctor's certificate of (a) any work restrictions, or (b) the claimant's capability to work at least part-time for 15 hours a week or more (with or without a reasonable accommodation. (See Question 8);
  • if applicable, military discharge papers, the DD-124 Member 4 form (can be requested on line at http://www.dd214.us);
  • if employed by federal government within the past 18 months, the SF-18 and/or SF-50 form provided by the government employment at the time of seperation.

Other information that DUA may require includes that relating to union pension and/or other pension payments, workers' compensation, vacation or personal time-off pay, severance pay, and enrollment in a school or training program.

Note:  Advocates should warn claimants not to file their UI claim through third parties who charge a fee for this service. DUA will accept only those claims coming directly from a worker.

Investigation and initial adjudication of claim

If the employer questions the claimant's eligibility for UI benefits, a DUA claims adjudicator conducts an investigation. The DUA will require the claimant and the employer to complete initial questionnaires that are either posted on their account through UI Online or sent by mail, depending on the choice of correspondence. If there are additional questions that have arisen as a result of the employer’s response, DUA requires the claimant to fill out a rebuttal questionnaire that is either posted online on the claimant’s account or mailed to the claimant. The claimant can respond either online or by telephone, to provide their explanation of the reason for separation.

DUA is under a federal obligation to make a “reasonable attempt to obtain material facts from the parties.”  ET Handbook No. 301, 5th ed., Change 1 (10/13/05).  However, the timelines offered to the parties to accomplish this are very tight and inexplicably DUA has recently made the requirements even harsher.  DUA provides the parties with written notice that information is required by a certain date.  The deadline set for receipt of information can be 5 days or 10 days, but no less than 2 business days. AH c. 1, § 2A. DUA provides that if a response to a questionnaire has not been returned by the deadline date, “adjudicators may proceed with adjudicating the issue utilizing the information available.” UIPP # 2018.02, Reasonable Attempts (3/23/2018).  If a fact-finding has been timely returned and the adjudicator has further questions and cannot contact the party, the adjudicator must call, leave a detailed message, and provide 48 hours for a response.  Id.

Note:  DUA has ended its practice of sending the claimant questionnaires about employment during the claimant’s base period with non-interested party (non IP) employers (employers who did not employ the claimant within the last 8 weeks before filing for UI benefits).  Additionally, a claimant’s failure to respond to a questionnaire about employment with a non IP employer should have no impact on the claim.  If problems occur, contact DUA Constituent Services preferably by email at constituentservices@detma.org or at 877-626-6800 toll free for area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, 978 or 617-603-6800.  

DUA states that the claimant and employer statements appear on the claimant’s online account. They are also available in hard copy in the Hearings Department file and advocates should review them as a routine part of hearing preparation. If DUA has not yet scheduled a hearing, documents are available by sending a Public Records Request to DUA. See a Appendix I.

Advocates should look carefully to see whether a DUA staff member in fact made contact with your client and, if there are language barrier issues, determine if DUA used an interpreter. (See Question 52.)

Notice of Approval/Notice of Disqualification

At the conclusion of this initial adjudication of the claim, the adjudicator issues a Notice of Approval or a Notice of Disqualification on the claimant's eligibility for unemployment benefits based on the information gathered. (See Appeals Process, Part 6.) If the claims adjudicator decides a claimant is eligible, benefits date back to the date of application.

Confidentiality

Generally, information collected under the UI statute is not a public record, not admissible in any other proceeding, and is absolutely privileged. G.L. c. 151A, § 46(a). Tuper v. North Adams Ambulance Service, Inc., 428 Mass. 132, 137, 697 N.E.2d 983, 986 (1998) (affirming that the confidentiality provisions of § 46 provided additional support for a judge's allowance of defendant's motion to preclude any reference to a UI decision and proceedings in a subsequent civil action; Yin v. Biogen, Inc. 2015 WL 8024542 *6 (D. Mass. 12/4/15)(same); Bergeron v. L & M Flooring, LLC, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 1104, 87 N.E. 2d 1202 (table), 2017 WL 3623500 * 4 (8/24/17)(same and noting that UI decision cannot be used offensively against the defendants in a subsequent civil action for wrongful termination). Anyone who unlawfully discloses information collected during the claims process may be punished with a maximum fine of $100 and up to 6 months in jail. G.L. c. 151A, § 46(e). The Appeals Court has ruled, however, that the “basic underlying fact of . . . receipt of benefits” is not information protected by Section 46(a). Howell v. Enterprise Publishing Co., 72 Mass. App. Ct. 739, 752, 893 N.E.2d 1270, 1283 (2008).

Some limited exceptions exist to this confidentiality/non-admissibility rule. See G.L. c. 151A, § 46(b)-(c). The statute allows disclosure to the Division of Health Care Finance and Policy for administration and enforcement of the Massachusetts healthcare law, including the "free rider" surcharge on employers who do not provide health insurance and the employer's "fair share" assessment, G.L. c. 151A, § 46(c)(7); and to provide information to the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, G.L. c. 151A, § 46(j).

Moreover, an exception to this privilege arises whenever the information is sought for use in “any civil or criminal case brought pursuant to [chapter 151A] where the department or commonwealth is a necessary party.” G.L. c. 151A, § 46(c)(1).

The Superior Court held that when a claimant appeals a Board of Review decision to the District Court, “the records of that proceeding . . . [become] a matter of public record outside of the provisions of [G.L. c. 151A, § 46],” Beaubrun v. Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of North Andover, LLC, 29 Mass.L.Rptr. 154, 2011 WL 6379299, *1 (Mass. Super. 2011) (emphasis in original). HOwever, on appeal, the Appeals Court held that the underlying rationale for a DUA decision and the record of the substance of the proceedings are protected by the privacy provisions of G.L. c. 151A, § 46, and that as a consequence, factual findings in a DUA decision may not be accorded issue-preclusive effect,  Beaubrun v. Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 1104, 4 N.E. 3d 939, (2014).

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3. What Is the Initial DUA Eligibility Process?

An individual initiates a claim for UI benefits by filing a claim through an internet program called “UI Online.” Persons unable to use the internet may apply by telephone. (See Question 1.) With the exception of the Boston walk-in office, claiments can no longer apply in person. If the DUA adjudicator initially finds the claimant eligible, the adjudicator mails a UI Request of Information to the employer, which notifies it of the claim. The employer has 10 days in which to respond by returning the completed UI Request to DUA.

Employer requirements, reporting information, and employer information for claimants.

DUA has the responsibility for collecting the wage reports that the state requires employers to file (for UI, taxation, and other purposes). G.L. c. 151A, § 14P, inserted by St. 2009, c. 4, § 78. DUA regulations at 430 CMR 5.20–5.23 set out the procedural requirements employers or their agents must follow in reporting wages.

Section 25(a) of the Unemployment Insurance Law requires that benefits not be paid in any week in which a claimant “fails…to comply with the registration and filing requirements of the commissioner.” G.L. c. 151A, § 25(a) (the position of commissioner is now called “director,” this term will be used in this Guide when not directly quoting the text of a statute or case). The statute goes on to require that “the commissioner shall furnish copies of such requirements to each employer, who shall notify his employees of the terms thereof when they become unemployed.” Id. (emphasis added).

If DUA finds that a claimant has violated a “registration” requirement, advocates should check that the claimant’s employer has provided the relevant information.

Timeliness for employer

An employer who fails to respond without “good cause” within this 10‑day period is barred from participating as a party to any related proceedings. The lead case on the subject of good cause for failing to timely respond is Torres v. Director of the Div. of Employment Security, 387 Mass. 776, 443 N.E.2d 1297 (1982). In Torres, the Supreme Judicial Court ruled that an employer who did not receive notice because of a misaddressed envelope had good cause.

An employer who has lost “party” status may, nevertheless, still participate in the UI hearing but only as a witness. This means that the employer may provide testimony and/or documents regarding the claimant’s job separation but has no right to cross-examine the claimant, to postpone the hearing, or to appeal the decision.

Note: The timely response to DUA determines the next step and gives the employer an opportunity either to corroborate the employee’s entitlement to benefits or to claim that benefits should not be granted.

Determination of eligibility

If the employer indicates that the claimant was “laid off,” DUA deems the employee eligible and the employee should begin to receive benefits immediately. (See Receiving Benefits, Part 5.)

On the other hand, if the employer indicates one of a range of other options, DUA withholds UI benefits until it determines eligibility through an online process or by telephone. Thus, in certain cases—discharge or quit cases; cases where the circumstances of separation are questionable; cases where there are other issues involved––a claims adjudicator must make an eligibility determination.

Other examples of reasons DUA may investigate a claim include: a claimant is not available for or actively seeking work; a claimant is on a leave of absence; a claimant is receiving other pay or workers’ compensation; a claimant is receiving a pension; the claimant is a non‑citizen and lacks proof of current work authorization.

Under DUA policy, DUA adjudicates all separations from different employers if these separations occurred during a claimant’s last 8 weeks of employment. (See Question 45), but a claiment who left employment within that period in good faith to accept new employment and became separated from that new employment for good cause attributable to the new employing unit should not be disqualified per  G.L. c. 151A, § 25(e), ¶3. BR-0028 2475 22 (6/5/19) (finding that a claimant who leaves their job for another full-time permanent position does so in good faith and shall not be disqualified.)

Further, a claimant may receive more than one DUA notice of disqualification arising from a separation from several jobs or even from the same job. For example, DUA may disqualify a claimant because of the nature of the separation or because the claimant has not been looking for work since the separation. The claimant must appeal each disqualification in order to preserve eligibility for full UI benefits. If a claimant filed the first appeal and later files a late appeal on the second notice, DUA should allow good cause for any late appeal. 

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4. How Are UI Benefits Calculated?

Calculating Monetary Eligibility and the UI Weekly Benefit Amount

In order to be monetarily eligible for UI, a claimant’s total earnings in their “base period” (see step 1 below for an explanation of “base period”) must equal or exceed the claimant’s weekly benefit amount multiplied by 30. The steps outlined below describe how the weekly benefit amount, the total amount of UI benefits, and the duration of UI benefits are calculated.

Step 1: Figure out the 4 completed calendar quarters prior to the filing of the claim and add up the total wages from these quarters. Calendar quarters are January 1st to March 31st, April 1st to June 30th, July 1st to September 30th, and October 1st to December 31st. The 4 prior completed calendar quarters make up the claimant’s “primary base period.” The claimant may use the most recent wages in an incomplete quarter (called the “lag period”) plus the prior 3 completed quarters, called the “alternate base period,” if the claimant is ineligible for UI using the primary base period, or if using the alternate base period results in at least a 10% higher benefit credit.  (See Question 7 for a description of primary and alternate base periods.) Note: The weekly benefit amount excludes any allowance for dependents.

Step 2: Add together the 2 highest calendar quarters of wages in the base period and divide by 26 (the number of weeks in the 2 quarters) to determine the average weekly wage.

Alternative Step 2: If the claimant worked only 2 quarters or fewer in the base period, determine the average weekly wage by dividing the highest (or only) quarter by 13. Note: This formula is particularly problematic for claimants who have worked for 2 quarters and earned fluctuating wages so that the two quarterly earnings vary greatly (due to slow-downs, overtime, payment of wages that are illegally late, etc.), resulting in monetary ineligibility because the average weekly wage is based on earning in the high quarter. Under this formulation, it is often mathematically impossible for total earning to equal or exceed 30 times the claimant's weekly benefit rate. See G.L. c. 151A, § 1(w). This result has a disparate impact on low wage workers who are the most likely to have volatile work schedules and could be easily remedied by calculating the weekly benefit rate based on the average of the wages in 2 quarters rather than determining the weekly beenfit rate on the basis of wages in the high quarter alone.

Step 3: The weekly UI benefit amount is the average weekly wage divided by 2 rounded to the nearest dollar.

Under this 3-step calculation, a claimant is monetarily eligible for UI benefits if her total base period earnings equal or exceed 30 times her weekly benefit rate.

Calculating the Total Amount of UI Benefits

The total amount of UI that a claimant can receive in the benefit year (the 52 weeks after applying for UI benefits) is called the maximum benefit amount (and also referred to as the “total benefit credit.”) The maximum benefit amount is the lesser of 30 times the weekly benefit amount or 36% of the total wages earned during the base period.  

Step 4:  To determine the maximum benefit amount, calculate which amount is smaller – either 30 times the weekly benefit amount or 36% of the total wages in the claimant’s base period.

Calculating the Duration of UI Benefits

Step 5: Calculate the duration of UI benefits by dividing the maximum benefit amount by the weekly benefit amount. The maximum number of weeks is 26 weeks.

A more detailed explanation of calculating UI benefits can be found in Unemployment Insurance: A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services, available at http://www.mass.gov/lwd/docs/dua/p2594-508.pdf (provided here as a reference and not as an endorsement of its contents).

Claimants can access monetary information (the weekly benefit amount, the maximum benefit amount for the benefit year, and the effective date and end date of the benefit year) through UI Online. Currently the path is: “View and Maintain Account Information,” then, “Monetary and Issue Summary,” then “Status.”  Claimants can also obtain information about potential benefits through UI Online by clicking “Estimate Future Benefits” to access the Benefits Estimator Information page.

 

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5. When Does Eligibility for Benefits Begin?

A claimant becomes eligible to begin collecting UI benefits one week after becoming unemployed. This week-long waiting period starts on the Sunday before the date of the claimant’s application. However, if the claimant is reopening a previous claim, the 1-week waiting requirement is waived. Under G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(f), claimants are deemed to have initiated a claim on the first day that they contact or attempt to contact DUA, whether or not they are able to speak with a DUA representative on that day. The effective date of the claim is the Sunday before the date that the claimant first attempts to contact DUA (subject to the 1-week waiting period). The employer must display a DUA poster titled “Information on UI Benefits” and provide former workers with written notice of how to file for UI benefits within 30 days of the last day they worked.

Note: A UI Online application is not complete until the Confirmation Page appears. If not completed up through Saturday at 9:59 pm of the week it was started, a Request for Benefit Payment is saved on UI Online.

Predating a Claim

If the employer does not give written notice of how to file for UI benefits within 30 days from the last day the claimant provided paid work and the claimant does not file a timely application for benefits, the claimant is automatically entitled to have the claim predated to the first week of UI eligibility. G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(g.) See BR-0026 0086 90 (2/27/19) (where a claimant is not given written information on filing unemployment claims by their most recent employer, they are automatically entitled to have their claim pre-dated, pursuant to G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(g)without a showing of good cause); BR-109713 (1/14/11). Notwithstanding this statutory requirement, DUA repeatedly denied predates and the Board repeatedly reversed these denials on the grounds that the employer has failed to provide written instructions.  BR-0024 6139 64 (12/24/2018); BR-0025 1553 94 (9/28/2018); BR-0022 533 19 (4/30/18); BR-0022 4583 16 (3/16/18); BR-0021 6448 96 (11/28/17); BR-0022 1570 69 (9/13/17); BR-0021 1788 30 (8/28/17); BR-0019 9348 56 (6/28/17); BR0019 9348 56 (6/28/17); BR-0017 7570 67 (8/26/16); BR-112109 (11/30/10) (Key). DUA has now clarified that where the employer has failed to provide information, a predate is required. AH c. 2, § 2C. Moreover, the employer has the burden of proof to show that it provided the claimant with information on how to file for unemployment insurance within thirty days after the employment was severed. BR-0017 7491 67 (6/14/16). If the employer failed to provide the claimant with instructions on how to file the claim, the claimant is permitted to predate the claim.

Predating of claims is also available when the claimant was in partial unemployment during the week prior to filing the claim, and if the claimant is able to establish good cause for failing to file earlier. BR-112109 (11/30/10). BR-109713 (1/14/11); BR- 112109 (11/30/10) (Key). Other reasons for predating include the inability to reach a Call Center or DUA representative due to the volume of claims, BR-0017 2892 01 (6/28/16), or the failure of DUA to provide information in a claimant’s primary language. (For additional provisions concerning predated claims, see G.L. c. 151A, §23(b); 430 CMR 4.01(3), (4); SRH §§ 1622, 1622(A) - (B) (revised 5/2017). Problems with UI Online can also constitute grounds for predating a claim.  BR-0022 3860 38 (1/19/18)(holding that technical barriers in DUA’s filing and registration system for someone who is in and out of unemployment constitutes good cause for predating). For additional provisions concerning predated claims, see G.L. c. 151A, §23(b); 430 CMR 4.01(3), (4); AH c. 2, §2.

Note 1: Using UI Online, claimants can predate their claim back only 1 week. If claimants would like to predate their claim for more than 1 week, they need to call the DUA Call Center at 877-626-6800 toll free for area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, and 978 or 617-626-6800 and speak with an agent.

Note 2: The Call Center cannot resolve a request to predate by more than 14 days for an initial claim, or by more than 21 days for a continued claim; an adjuster will resolve this request.

Payment of UI Benefits

Once DUA determines the claimant eligible for UI, the state will issue UI benefits through a DUA Debit Mastercard (Bank of America), or, if the claimant affirmatively chooses, through direct deposit. To activate the Bank of America card, call the bank’s customer service at 1-855-898-7292. Information on direct deposit is available at the DUA website at https://www.mass.gov/how-to/set-up-direct-deposit-for-your-unemployment-benefits, or by calling 877-626-6800 toll free for area codes 351, 413, 508, 774, and 978 or 617-626-6800.  Claimants who lose a paper check, have 12 months from the date of issuance to request a replacement UI payment and similarly have 12 months to activate the DUA Debit Card. After the 12 month period, unused funds will be credited back to the UI Trust Fund unless the claimant demonstrates "extreme, extenuating circumstance." See UIPP # 2016.02Implementation of Time Limit on Replacement UI Payments (2/12/16).

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6. What Does a Claimant Need to Do to Keep Getting UI Benefits or to Requalify for UI Benefits & End an Indefinite Disqualification?

Certification

A claimant must certify on a weekly basis and answer whether or not the claimant is currently working and has been looking for work for each week of collecting benefits. DUA has replaced mail certification with the English-only UI Online and with TeleCert in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Note: Where a claimant's certification is late because the requirements were not provided in the claimant's primary language, the late certification is for "good cause" and must be accepted. See 430 CMR 4.13(4)

Claimants can use TeleCert to certify work search via telephone. To contact the TeleClaim Center, a claimant should call the appropriate telephone number below:

  • For Area Codes 351, 413, 508, 774, and 978877-626-6800
  • For Area Code 617 and all others:  617-626-6338

The TeleClaim Center (listed in Appendix A) can provide information about the status of the claim. For information about the issuance of a check, a claimant can call the Claims Center.

Far too often, claimants may experience lengthy wait times or busy signals. To help speed the process, claimants should call on the day of the week that corresponds with the last number of their Social Security number: Monday – 0, 1; Tuesday – 2, 3; Wednesday – 4, 5, 6; Thursday – 7, 8, 9; Friday – any last digit. See questions asked during Telecert (translated into 9 languages).

Note: It is critical that advocates remind claimants to continue certifying online or by telephone (617-626-6800 or 877-626-6800), even if they are initially disqualified, so that they can collect all retroactive benefits if they win their appeal.

Documenting Work Search

As a condition of receiving UI benefits on a continued basis, DUA requires that claimants:

  • make a minimum of 3 work-search contacts for each week in which they claim benefits;
  • keep a detailed log of those work-search contacts including emails to and from the employers, job application recipts, job postings, job fair announcements, and networking club information; and
  • provide a work-search log and supporting documentation to DUA upon request.

Claimants are increasingly denied UI benefits for erroneous reasons because an adjudicator or a review examiner arbitrarily determines that their work search efforts are inadequate as illustrated by the following decision by the Board of Review reversing those denials. The Board has previously granted a remand in order to afford a claimant the opportunity to consolidate evidence of their work search and present it at a later date. When the claimant was able to provide evidence that she was searching for work 3 to 4 days a week in a range of suitable jobs for a diverse field of employers, the Board reversed her previous denial of UI benefits. BR-0025 1598 07 (3/19/19). Further, the Board reversed a denial of UI benefits where the claimant entered detailed work search efforts in the UIDatabase but did not keep a separate comprehensive record. The claimant’s use of the database was sufficient to establish work search efforts under G.L. c. 151A, § 24(b), although the Board noted that keeping a separate record is preferable. BR- 0026 4550 04 (12/24/2018). In another instance the Board reveresed a denial of UI benefits where a review examiner rejected a claimant's work search activity log on the grounds that it was "fabricated and unreliable" because the entries on the log were made with the same penmanship. The Board found the review examiner's decision unreasonable where there is no requirement that the work-search logs must be contemporaneously completed and where the examiner failed to ask the claimant any questions on how the logs were completed. BR - 0018 7588 55 (11/7/16). The Board reversed a disqualification where the claimant did not engage in 3 distinct job search activities on 3 different days each week. The Board found that nothing in the DUA's policies required that the job search contacts be made in different ways. BR - 0016 8161 05 (6/30/16). See also, AH c. 4, § 4B (describing a wide range of possible work search activities). The Board reversed a review examiner's decision that the claimant had not fulfilled the "3 methods of work search" where the claimant sought work on-line, through newspaper ads, and by called several trucking companies on multiple days even though the claimant did not actually speak to someone in the companies about available work. BR - 0020 1858 47 (3/29/17). The Board reversed a one-week denial of UI benefits where the review examiner's based the decision on the failure to provide a work search log even though the claimant credibly testified, and the review examiner's so found, that she had looked for work for 3 to 4 days that week and had a job interview that week. BR - 0018 0253 13 (8/31/16). Finally, the Board has found that DUA's guideline of "three mehtods on three different days," while a rule of thumb applicable to a majority of cases, should not be rigidly applied to deny all claimants under all circumstances. BR - 0018 3756 36 (6/14/16)(holding that a claimant who was a ballet dancer travelled and auditioned for various jobs around the country but could not always meet the "three on three.") and reiterated this position reversing a UI denial where an adjunct professor demonstrated that she was both preparing her teaching and looking for full-time work.  BR 0022 9460 73 (2/27/18).

Claimants who file their weekly UI claim online have the option of filling out their work-search log as part of that process. (See UI Online Claimant User Guide: Requesting Weekly Benefits—Regular UI Work Search Requirements, p. 33.)

For an example of a completed work-search log, see Appendix GWork-search logs can be downloaded at www.mass.gov/dua/worksearch and are also available at the local career centers. A sample work-search log is also provided in A Guide to Benefits and Employment Services for Claimants (p.35), which DUA sends to claimants when they initially file for UI. DUA requires claimants to keep the information and to provide it to DUA upon request.

Note: DUA no longer permits claimants to certify while outside the U.S., its territories and Canada and provides this information to employers who are required, in turn, to provide the information to claimants. However, the Board has held that a claimant who is in the US during the majority (at least 4 days) of any week in which they traveled to and certified from a foreign country is entitled to UI if otherwise eligible.  BR-0015 1720 09 (12/22/15) (Key).

DUA Language Notice Requirements

G.L. c. 151A, § 62A(d)(iii) provides that DUA must issue all notices in English, Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Italian, Portuguese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Khmer, Russian, and any other language that is the primary language of at least one half of 1% of Massachusetts’s residents. If DUA does not issue a bilingual notice in the claimant’s primary language and this omission results in the claimant’s failure to meet a deadline or requirement, then DUA’s omission constitutes good cause for the claimant’s failure to meet the deadline or requirement. 430 CMR 4.13(4). (See Question 52 for more information on DUA’s obligations under this statute.)

Requalifying for UI Benefits after a Prior Disqualification & Other Indefinite Disqualifications Issues

There are numerous situations where a claimant is disqualified and subsequent events result in ending the denial.  Until recently, claimants were faced with indefinite denials that were often not addressed until the claimant appealed to the Board.  DUA has now made clear that the Unemployment Insurance Telephone Claims Center (UITCC) is responsible for ending indefinite disqualifications on issues not appealed to the Hearings Department. Similarly, the Hearings Department must end indefinite disqualifications if relevant information is provided after the hearing decision. See UIPP No. 2020.04, End Indefinite Denial Procedures, (2/19/20)(rescinding UIPP No. 2019.02 (2/8/19).  The UIPP addresses the following 3 scenarios:

1) Requalifying Wages: If a claimant’s claim for UI benefits was denied due to separation issues, the claimant can requalify for UI by obtaining new work, for at least 8 weeks and have earned gross wages equal to or greater than 8 times the claimant’s weekly benefit amount.  If the last claim ended, the claimant must apply for a new claim (which looks at earnings in a new base period, i.e., wages that were not previously used to determine the weekly benefit amount.)  If the benefit year has not ended, then DUA reopens the claim and pays the same UI benefits;

2) Ending Indefinite Disqualification: This scenario insures eligibility where new information is available after an adjudication decision or a decision by the Hearings Department, such as a doctor’s note on a capability issue, or showing that a claimant is not still employed, etc.

3) Other Issues:  E.g., when a claimant is provided a predate on a new claim and payment on the new claim is prevented due to a disqualification on a prior claim (including a disqualification due to a hearings decision or to a default at the hearing) because the prior disqualifying claim is overlapping due to the change in date that the benefit year began. The indefinite denial must be ended when the prior disqualification is no longer applicable.

 

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