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3. What Is the Initial DUA Eligibility Process?

ALERT:   IN LIGHT OF THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, ASPECTS OF THE UI PROCESS HAVE BEEN MODIFIED.  VISIT https://www.masslegalservices.org/covid-19-and-ui FOR CURRENT INFORMATION.

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.