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Know Your Hawaii Unemployment Rights

Last Verified: January 2017

Hawaii has one of the lowest unemployment rates of any state in the nation. It also has one of the lowest unemployment tax rates in the country. This combination of factors allows the state to offer benefit amounts that are among the highest in the country.  Here are some tips for getting the assistance you need when you lose your job unexpectedly.

Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in HI

To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in Hawaii, you:

  • Lost your job through no fault of your own
  • Be partially or completely unemployed
  • Be mentally and physically able and available to accept any reasonable job offer
  • Must meet the state’s monetary eligibility requirement

If you are eligible and your benefits are approved, you must continually maintain your eligibility while you are receiving benefits. You must look for a job regularly. You must also remain able to work and available for work. You cannot turn down any reasonable offer.

To continue to receive benefits, you must prove that you are making regular efforts to find work. To that end, the Department requires participation in job search service programs.

Explaining Eligibility Requirements for Unemployment Benefits in HI

Becoming unemployed

You have to be fully or partially unemployed to receive benefits. You must have been dismissed involuntarily and the reason for your leaving can’t be your fault. This means you can neither quit nor be fired for a good reason, like violating employer policy.

If your employer significantly reduced your work hours, you can apply for partial unemployment benefits. You will have to be otherwise eligible, including being able and available as well as actively seeking employment.

Satisfying the Monetary Eligibility Requirement

The Unemployment Insurance division requires that you have earned enough money in the past year to be eligible for benefits.

  • Wages paid for insured work in at least two calendar quarters in your base period.
  • Wages paid for insured work of least 26 times your weekly benefit amount (WBA) in your base period.
  • Wages paid of at least five times your WBA for work during the prior claim if filing a new claim immediately after a prior claim expires.

Normally, these wages would have to be earned in-state. However, Hawaii allows you to count wages earned in another state in order to qualify.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in HI

Like other states, Hawaii refers to the months it uses to calculate the benefit amount as the “base period.” It’s a 12-month period prior to your initial claim for benefits; the first four of the last five quarters (3-month periods) prior to your filing a claim.

For example, if you file in the first quarter of 2017 in January, you would count wages earned in the last quarter of 2015 and the first, second and third quarter of 2016 (see illustration below).

base period

If your wages don’t qualify you for benefits using this calculation method, the Department will use an another method, the alternative base period. It will be the most recent four quarters prior to filing your claim. There won’t be a “lag period” as shown in the illustration.

The Maximum Unemployment Benefit Amount in HI

Currently, the maximum weekly benefit amount in Hawaii is $569. The minimum is $5. You can calculate your own benefit amount by taking the highest quarter wages you’ve earned (three months of checks) and dividing that by 21. If the quotient of that is less than the maximum benefit amount, that’s a good estimate of what you will receive each week.

You can receive benefits for 26 weeks in a benefit year. Multiply your weekly benefit amount by 26 to figure out your maximum.

The Department will mail you a notice called the “Unemployment Determination of Insured Status” that will contain this information. If you disagree with the calculation, you may appeal the decision.

Receiving Benefits for Part-time Work and Reduced Hours

If you were working part-time hours before your separation from employment, you may apply for benefits. You must be otherwise eligible. You may also apply for benefits if your employer significantly reduced your hours.

You may work part-time while you receive unemployment. You still have to be able and available to accept reasonable job offers.

The gross wages (before taxes and deductions) you earn while receiving benefits will be deducted from your weekly amount. You may earn up to $150 before deductions kick in.  If you earn more than your weekly amount, you will not be considered unemployed and will not be eligible for benefits.

For example, if you earned $250 during a week and your benefit amount is $400, the first $150 is ignored. The Department will take out $100 from your benefit payment, leaving you with $300 from the state and $250 from your paycheck.

How to File for Unemployment Benefits in HI

The Division requires all applicants to file their initial benefit claim online at their web site. Those who are reopening claims will also file here. If it is your first time, you will create an account on the site and follow the instructions. File between 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (HST), Monday to Friday or between 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (HST) on weekends and holidays.

The system may require you to take further steps. You may have to download, print and complete additional forms and mail them in, or you may be asked to visit a Division office in person. Failure to comply could result in a delay of receiving money.

If you live in another state and wish to open a claim regarding employment in Hawaii, you must file online at the Division web site.

Documents Needed to File an Unemployment Claim

You will need state issued identification and proof of your legal permission to be employed in the US.

  • A driver’s license or state-issued ID
  • A passport or birth certificate
  • Proof of right to work (Permanent Registration card, foreign passport with visa, etc.)
  • If you were a federal or military employee, you will need the appropriate separation forms

Maintaining Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in HI

While receiving unemployment benefits, the Department requires recipients to do two things primarily, look for work and avoid fraud. The Department monitors this through your weekly certifications, sometimes referred to as “filing a weekly claim.”

In Hawaii, you file your weekly claim via the Unemployment Insurance Division web site. You will need to find Internet access if you do not have it already. Alternatively, you can visit a local Division office and use their computers. You can also file a bi-weekly claim.

You should always be available to accept reasonable job offers while collecting benefits. You shouldn’t refuse one, either. A reasonable job offer is one that you’ve been trained to do, or could easily perform. You may refuse an offer that pays significantly less than what you made before initially. However, the longer you collect benefits, the less important salary would be to the Division.

The state mandates that you actively seek employment during the time you collect benefits. You must keep a record of your efforts. When you conduct job searches, you should make contact with a person who can make or help make hiring decisions.

Workers receiving benefits must make at least three contacts per week.

Job Search and Training Services While Collecting Unemployment in HI

The Division will offer assistance to workers looking for work while on unemployment. Some of this assistance is mandatory, a condition of being eligible for benefits.

Within a week of applying for benefits, applicants must register with the State Workforce Development Division (WDD). To do this, post a resume online at Hirenet Hawaii. You can visit a local office of the WDD  to register.

The Division will target some workers for additional assistance. These workers may have been working in fields that are disappearing in the current economic climate. They may have other issues making it harder for them to find work. The state will “profile” these workers and the WDD will call them in.

If you are asked to participate in the Reemployment Services program, it will become a condition of your eligibility.

The Division may also call you in to review your status. They may examine your reemployment efforts or make sure you are still eligible to receive benefits. Failure to respond to any Division agents when they call could result in a delay or loss of benefits.

What Happens if the Division Denies Benefits

As you are filing a claim each week, the state can deny benefits any time for cause, not just after the first time you apply. Aside from denying benefits because you were fired or quit, there are other issues that can cause you to lose benefits

  • Failure to accept work without good cause
  • Unavailable to work – physically or mentally unable to take a job offer. You may be eligible after receiving a medical waiver. The waiver certifies your illness or disability by a doctor and that you have not refused work prior to the illness.
  • Collecting unemployment in another state
  • Collecting disability payments from Hawaii
  • Committing fraud (knowingly making a false statement) with regard to your status. If found guilty of this, you may be fined and prevented from collecting unemployment for two years.

Fired but Still Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Generally, if you are fired for good cause, your actions caused the separation from work. Being that it was your fault; the Division would disqualify you from receiving benefits. In some circumstances, your employer could fire you, yet you remain eligible for benefits. For example, you may have been discharged for violating a policy. If that was your first offense, you could suggest the dismissal was unreasonable.

Quit but Still Receiving Unemployment Benefits

If you leave work voluntarily, you caused the separation from work. Therefore, the Division would deny your claim for benefits. You may have experienced a situation at work that caused you to leave; something your employer did or didn’t do that made working there unreasonable. You may have had to work without compensation or work in very unsafe conditions. This is called a constructive discharge because the employer is considered to cause the separation.

What Happens When Hawaii Denies Unemployment Benefits

If the Department denies your application for benefits, you may appeal the decision to the Employment Security Appeals Referees’ Office (ESARO). You have 10 days from the date the Department mailed the decision to file an appeal. The ESARO may extend that deadline to 30 days upon a showing of good cause. Failure to file a timely appeal could result in the ESARO deciding not to hear the merits of the claim.

The ESARO adjudicates appeals to the monetary determination as well. The same rules and procedures as benefit decision appeals apply.

If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Hawaii.

Additional Information on Unemployment Benefits in HI

  • The Unemployment Insurance Division has a wealth of information on their web pages.
  • The Division publishes a handbook on unemployment benefits. The document contains information on how to address special situations.
  • The Appeals Division has a web site with a fact and more hints about the appeals process.
  • You may call your local Unemployment Insurance office to speak with a staff member. You may also contact them by Email.
Online Claim Filing: dlir.unemployment
Employer Registration for SIDES E-Response and Electronic Low Earning Report Monitoring (ELERM) dlir.unemployment
Honolulu Claims Office
830 Punchbowl St., Rm 110
Honolulu, HI 96813
 586-8970  586-8980
Waipahu Office
Waipahu Civic Center
94-275 Mokuola St., Rm 301
Waipahu, HI 96797-3369
 675-0030  675-0025 [email protected]
Benefit Overpayment  586-8947  586-8958
Unemployment Abuse / Report Fraud  586-8947  586-8958
Statement of Charges  586-8951  586-8958
Hilo Claims and Benefits
1990 Kinoole St., Ste 101
Hilo, HI 96720-5293
 974-4086  974-4085 [email protected]
Kona Claims and Benefits
81-990 Halekii St., Rm 2090
Kealakekua, HI 96750
 322-4822  322-4828 [email protected]
Maui Claims and Benefits
54 South High St., Rm 201
Wailuku, HI 96793
 984-8400  984-8444 [email protected]
Kauai Claims and Benefits
4370 Kukui Grove St., Ste 3-214
Lihue, HI  96766
274-3043 274-3046 [email protected]
EMPLOYER SERVICES [email protected]
830 Punchbowl St., Room 437
Honolulu, HI 96813
General Information  586-8926  586-8929
Registration  586-8913 or 586-8914
Unemployment Tax Information  586-8915
Quarterly Wage  586-8982
Audit Section  586-9795
Hilo Employer Services  974-4095  974-4085 [email protected]
Kona Employer Services  974-4095  974-4085 [email protected]
Maui Employer Services  984-8410  984-8444 [email protected]
Molokai Employer Services  984-8410  984-8444 [email protected]
Kauai Employer Services  274-3025  274-3046 [email protected]



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