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Learn About your California Unemployment Rights

Last Verified: January 2017

California’s unemployment insurance (UI) program is aimed at providing financial support for citizens who are temporarily out of work until they find new employment. The program is funded by the taxes paid by employers. Since the UI program benefits the entire community and helps California’s economy, employers are happy to see their taxes go to such a noble cause. For those seeking unemployment in California, it is important that you know all of the ins and outs of the program to ensure that you can get the benefits you need without running into any hitches along the way.


To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in California, you must earn wages from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law. Such “covered employers” pay the tax that funds the unemployment insurance program. You must have earned a certain amount of wages over a 12-month period. Additionally:

  • You must be able and willing to work
  • You must be actively seeking new employment
  • You must be fully or partially unemployed
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own

Eligibility Requirements Explained

Able and Available

You must be physically and mentally able to work. You must be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is a job you’re trained to do at a salary similar to previous work.

Unemployed Through No Fault of your Own

Your actions or decisions cannot be the cause of your separation from work. Workers who lost a job due to layoffs or similar reasons are likely to be eligible for benefits. Those who were discharged are likely to find the state denying their benefits.

Other Issues

You must be a US citizen or have proof you are allowed to work legally in the US to be eligible. You can be partially unemployed (your employer reduced your hours or wages) and be eligible.

Wage Earning Requirement and the Base Period

You must have earned wages from a covered employer over a 12-month period called the “base period.” The base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing your initial claim for benefits.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period.

The Employment Development Department’s (EDD) examiners will look at your wages over the base period to determine your eligibility. To meet the earnings requirement, you must have earned:

  • At least $1,300 in the quarter when you made the most money, or
  • At least $900 in your highest quarter and total base period earnings that equal or exceed 1.25 times your highest quarter earnings.

If you don’t meet the requirement using the standard base period, the EDD will automatically apply an alternate base period. The alternate calculation uses the 12-months immediately prior to you filing a claim.

Your Benefit Amount

The state has not released how it arrives at your weekly benefit amount (WBA); however, we know it is based on your highest quarter base period wages. The EDD provides a chart that shows how much you could receive based on your high quarter wages.

The state maximum WBA is currently $450 and the minimum is $40. Your WBA will never be higher or lower than the maximum and minimum, which is set by law. The maximum amount of weeks you can receive benefit payments is 26 during a benefit year.

How to Apply for Unemployment in CA

You can apply online on the EDD site here:

Alternatively, you may also apply over the phone.You may use the automated self-service numbers:

ENGLISH 1-866-333-4606
ESPAÑOL 1-866-333-4606

Or you may call to speak with a customer service representative. The EDD makes available representatives in various languages recognizing the state’s diverse population.

English: 1-800-300-5616

Spanish: 1-800-326-8937

Chinese: 1-800-547-3506

Vietnamese: 1-800-547-2058

You may also use the paper unemployment application that you can download from the EDD website. The form contains the fax number and mailing address to use to complete your application.

You will need some information when you apply. It is best to have this ready before you apply. The Basic information you will need is:

  • Personal info: Name, phone number, SSN, address, and Driver’s License number
  • The dates that you worked for your last employer and their information (name, phone number, address)
  • Reason you are no longer working for you last employer
  • Information for every employer you worked for in the past 18 months (name, phone number, address)
  • Reason you are no longer working for you last employer

During the actual application process you will be asked questions in order to determine whether or not you are eligible for unemployment benefits. If questions arise regarding your claim, such as separation issues, you may be asked to complete an interview with the EDD. You will receive a notice including the date and time to call.

Benefit Certifications and Maintaining Eligibility

The state requires that workers maintain their eligibility status while they receive benefits. This includes looking for work and being available to accept suitable employment. The state monitors your eligibility by requiring you to file a bi-weekly claim, called certifying for continued benefits.

You may certify online, by phone or mail, just as with filing the initial claim.

To file online, you will register an account with UI OnlineSM . The online portal allows you to perform various tasks online related to your claim as well as your certifications. The system is mobile computing-friendly.

You may use Use EDD Tele-CertSM to certify for UI benefits over the phone by calling the UI self-service number: 1-866-333-4606.

If necessary, you can use a paper form to certify. Your claim will be subject to the normal speed of the postal system. The EDD will mail a copy of the Continued Claim Form that you need to file by mail.

However you certify, you will have to answer several questions to show that you remain eligible each week. These questions intend to ensure you are looking for work and allow you to report any income you’ve earned.

  • Whether you are able to work
  • Whether you are available to accept suitable employment offers
  • Whether you are looking for work
  • Whether you have quit or started a job
  • Whether you have earned any wages or received income

If you are working, you will report your income during the certification process.

Work Search Requirements

As a condition of receiving benefits, you have to show that you are making a good faith effort to find a job. You’ll have to register with CaliJobs, the EDD’s workforce service. Depending on your circumstances, you may have to look for work each week and keep a record of your job search efforts.

  • Union workers may be required to look for full or part-time work on their own, or follow the requirements their union sets forth for dispatch.
  • The EDD may not require some workers to look for work; however, these workers must remain able and available.
  • The EDD may exempt some workers from the requirement.

The EDD will inform all workers of their work search requirements.

Part-time Work and Benefits

California allows you to work part-time and continue to receive benefits even if you earn more than your WBA. When you report your wages, the EDD will calculate the deduction and you will receive the leftover, if any. Your claim may become inactive if you earn more than your WBA. The state will notify you that your claim is inactive and you will have to reopen your claim.

  • If you earn $100 or less, the first $25 will not count.
  • If you earn $101 or more, the first 25% will not count.
  • The EDD will deduct other types of income dollar-for-dollar, like pension payments.

You must report wages earned within the week you earned them, not the week you received payment. The state receives quarterly wage reports and will search for wages benefit recipients may have earned. If you do not report earnings, you may lose your right to receive benefits or face criminal charges.

Unemployment Payments

In order to speed up the payment process and make things simpler for both the EDD and claimants, in 2011 California began depositing payments into individually assigned EDD debit cards. This has substantially improved the speed in which payments are made and citizens have been very happy with the change. In order to activate your card, you can do so online at or call


If you wish to have your payments deposited into your personal bank account, you can do so by contacting Bank of America and having funds transferred into your account from your EDD card automatically. You can use the contact information above to do this. The EDD does not handle direct deposit transfers. You will need to provide an email address, otherwise, the bank cannot complete the transfer process.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

If you do not meet the wage requirements, the EDD will deny benefits. You will receive a Notice of Determination in the mail detailing your wage calculation as the reason for the denial. If you have sufficient wages, you may still be denied for other reasons.

Separation Issues

If you quit your job without a good cause connected to your employment, the EDD will deny your claim for benefits. Quitting because of mere dissatisfaction with your job (not to take a new one), quitting to return to school full-time or quitting because you couldn’t find child care all seem like “good” reasons. Yet, these reasons are not connected to work.

If your employer dismissed you, you may be ineligible. The EDD is required to find that your actions constituted misconduct. “Misconduct” can one a one-time violation of a rule or repeated violations and warnings, as long as the act or acts showed a disregard for the employer’s interests.

While the EDD stresses that misconduct be “connected to work,” employers may dismiss employees for certain actions that occur outside work. Drug use is one of the more common examples, especially when such conduct results in an arrest or affects work performance.

Non-separation issues

Your conduct while receiving benefits can result in a denial. If you:

  • Misrepresented facts in your claim,
  • Failed to report to the EDD when called,
  • Failed to report earnings, or
  • Refused suitable employment

the state may deny benefits. This list is not exclusive; other actions or inactions can cause a denial of benefits.

Quit and Still Eligible

You may have decided to quit your job; however, you may have had a good cause. Some acceptable reasons for quitting could be:

  • Finding a new job while still employed
  • An illness at work (if you are now eligible)
  • Your employer required you to work in unsafe conditions
  • Leaving the area because of a domestic violence situation

If you quit for a good cause, the cause does not always have to be connected to work. You will have to show that you tried repeatedly to remedy the problem before quitting.

Fired and Still Eligible

If the act or actions that caused your employer to dismiss you don’t rise to the level of misconduct, the EDD may approve your claim. One-time violations of policy, mistakes or minor errors in judgement might not be misconduct.

What Happens When Benefits are Denied: The Appeals Process

You have the right to appeal any determination the EDD makes. You have 30 days from the mailing date of the EDD’s decision to file your appeal. The appeal hearing itself will be in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Your former employer will have the right to appear at the hearing and offer relevant testimony.

For more about the unemployment benefit appeal process, please view our page on California Unemployment Appeals.

Appealing a ruling

If your claim for unemployment benefits was denied, you have the ability to appeal the ruling. The first step in filing an appeal is to send and letter to the EDD containing:

  • Your Name, phone, number, and address
  • Your SSN
  • Reason for appeal

However, it may be simpler to fill out this form provided by the EDD, This letter is included in the rejection notice sent to you as well.

Once the EDD reviews the appeal, they will make a decision. If it’s decided that your appeal does have a basis you will receive a letter from the office of appeals containing a hearing date, time, and location. After the hearing, the final judgment by the Administrative Law Judge will be mailed to you. There will be a phone number on the letter to call in case you have any questions.

Before filing your appeal, make sure that you have new information in regards to why you should be approved. Failure to present new information may result in your claim being denied again.

Contact EDD

Employment Development Department
P.O. Box 826880 – UIPCD, MIC 40
Sacramento, CA 94280-0001

Phone Numbers

English: 1-800-300-5616

Spanish: 1-800-326-8937

Chinese: 1-800-547-3506

Vietnamese: 1-800-547-2058


Here are some valuable resources to use for California Unemployment.

Unemployment Forms

California Unemployment Law

EDD Debit Card

How to use EDD Debit card

Assistance for families

General information


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