Despite a shrinking national unemployment rate, businesses continue to shed jobs through layoffs and downsizing. In December 2016, Fiat Chrysler laid off thousands of its Kansas City employees through restructuring. They will have to rely temporarily on union assistance and Kansas unemployment benefits to get them through a rough patch. All working Kansans owe it to themselves to be familiar with the process of obtaining unemployment benefits should the unthinkable occur.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in KS
The basic requirements to be eligible to receive unemployment benefits is to be separated from work with an employer covered by unemployment laws. You cannot be the cause of your separation from work. You must be:
- Dismissed through no fault of your own
- Be fully or partially unemployed
- Be able and available for work
- You must have enough wages over a 12-month period to qualify
To remain eligible after your initial claim, you have to show that you are making regular, serious efforts to find employment. You may work part-time; however, your wages must be less than your weekly benefit amount (WBA) to be considered “unemployed.”
Unemployment Eligibility in Kansas Explained
Separation from Work
To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you cannot have been the cause of your dismissal. If your employer dismisses you for a good reason, such as repeated violations of a policy, you would be ineligible. If you leave work voluntarily, you would not be able to receive benefits.
Able and Available
You must be physically and mentally able to work. If you have some illness or disability that prevents you from getting a job, you won’t be able to work. So then, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
If you have some obligation that prevents you from taking a job, like school or overseas travel, you won’t be eligible to receive benefits.
Monetary eligibility and the Base Period
Kansas requires that you have earned a sufficient amount of money during a 12-month period prior to filing a claim to be eligible to receive benefits. This period is the first four (12 months) out of the last five completed quarters (15 months). Please see the illustration below.
You must also have earned sufficient wages and earned wages in at least two quarters during the base period.
Weekly Benefit Amount
Kansas uses a calculation of the weekly benefit amount to help determine monetary eligibility. The Department of Labor calculates the WBA by taking the highest wages earned during your base period and multiplying that times 4.25 percent.
Your total wages during the base period must be 30 times your WBA to be eligible to receive benefits.
Kansas law sets the minimum and maximum you can receive throughout the benefit year. The maximum WBA is, as of July 1, 2015, $474. The minimum is always 25 percent of the maximum.
The Department will mail you a Notice of Monetary Determination. This document will contain information on whether you meet the monetary requirement, the base period calculations and the WBA. Receipt of the document DOES NOT mean you are eligible to receive unemployment. That notice will arrive separately.
The Kansas Department of Labor web site features a widget that allows you to estimate your benefit amount.
Work Search Requirement
To remain eligible during your benefit year, you have to show that you are making regular, concrete efforts to find work. The Department of Labor may offer you assistance in finding work, assistance that you are required to accept as a condition of getting the money.
- The Department will mail a Reemployment Plan along with your monetary determination notice. You’ll complete the form you receive and return it.
- You must perform at least three “job seeking activities” per week. In at least one of those activities, you must end up submitting an application or a resume.
- You may not perform the same activity to fulfill the requirement (e.g. cannot search a job board three times)
The Department may require you to participate in a reemployment program. You will receive tailored assistance, engaging in activities proven to help people find work faster. This is separate from the Reemployment Plan, and if the state selects you, you must participate to receive benefits.
There are two situations where workers are exempt from this requirement:
- Laid off and expecting to return to work at the same employer within four weeks
- Part of a union that reemploys workers regularly
How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits in KS
The online service is available:
- Sunday from noon to Monday at 9 p.m.
- Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Saturday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Follow all instructions given, and print out and mail immediately any forms you are asked to complete.
If you cannot file by telephone, you may file by calling one of the Contact Centers. There are a few things you need to remember:
- You must use a touch–tone phone to file your claim over the phone:
- If you are using a touch–tone phone that has a pulse/tone switch, be sure the switch is set to tone.
- Most public pay phones can access our system.
- The phone system is busiest on Monday and Tuesday. If you call on those days, be prepared for longer hold times.
- You may consider calling Wednesday, Thursday or Friday when there are usually fewer callers.
You must file by telephone if you filed a claim in another state within the past year or if you were a federal or military employee within the past 18 months.
The phone numbers to use to file your claims are:
- Kansas City Area – 913-596-3500
- Topeka Area – 785-575-1460
- Wichita Area – 316-383-9947
- Toll–free number outside the local calling areas: 800-292-6333
- Speech and/or hearing disabled – toll free 800-766-3777.
If you need a live person, you can reach someone Monday through Friday 8AM to 4:15PM CST.
The automated system is available 7 AM to 7PM Monday through Friday and 9AM to 7PM on Saturday. If you call after business hours you can start your claim but you will not be able to complete it. You will have to either go online or call a claims specialist to complete it, so it is best to call during business hours.
When you file a claim, either online or by telephone, your claim may process without having to answer any additional questions. The Unemployment Center calls this a “quick claim.” If you:
- You are laid off due to lack of work
- There are no other issues on your claim
- Your last employer is the same employer as when you filed previously
- Your address has not changed
- You answered all the required questions
Your claim may sail through. If there are questions regarding your separation from work, you were a federal or military employee or other issues; you may have to speak with a claims specialist.
If you are able to file a claim successfully, the Unemployment Center will notify you on two issues via mail:
- You will receive an Unemployment Benefit Monetary Determination. This tells you how much money you will be eligible to receive.
- You will receive a Notice of Determination. This will tell you whether you are eligible for benefits.
To maintain eligibility for unemployment benefits, Kansas requires you to continue to meet the eligibility requirements you met upon your initial claim. It also requires you to regularly search for work. The Unemployment Center monitors your eligibility by requiring you to file a claim each week, also called “weekly certifications.”
You should start filing your weekly claims on the Sunday after your initial claim, or during that week. You will be unemployed at this point; however, you cannot receive benefits for weeks you do not certify.
You may file your weekly claim by telephone or online. You will be asked a series of questions intended to make sure you remain eligible. The questions will cover these topics:
- Did you earn any wages during the week?
- Did you have any income (e.g. social security or pension)
- Were you dismissed or did you quit any job?
- Were you able and available for work?
- Did you refuse any work?
- Did you look for work?
As long as you have continued to look for work and have not refused any work, you should receive some benefits. If you have worked during the week, you may see your benefit amount reduced by the wages or income you’ve received.
Benefit Deductions and Part-time Work
You will be able to keep 25% of your WBA before the Department starts reducing the amount of money you receive. If you receive more than your WBA, you won’t receive any benefits that week. The Department may ask that you file an additional claim until you stop receiving the wages or income, considering that you are no longer legally unemployed when your wages equal or surpass your WBA.
For example, if your WBA is $400, 25% of that is not deductible. You report $300 in earnings for that benefit week. The deductible amount is $300 minus your non-deductible amount. You will receive $200 that week (and you will keep your $300 in wages).
In the above example, it pays to work part-time while receiving benefits.
If you fail to report earnings for that week, you run the risk of being accused of fraud by the Department. You could face fines or jail as a result. You will also have to repay any benefits you received over what you would have received if you had correctly reported the income.
Whenever you receive benefits you aren’t entitled to, through error or intentionally providing misleading information when filing a claim, this is called an overpayment. You will have to repay the benefit amount you weren’t entitled to receive.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
The Department will deny your initial claim if you don’t meet the eligibility requirements. Most often, the Department denies benefits because the claimant was the cause of the separation from work.
Quit but Still Eligible
If you quit, or you violated your employer’s policy repeatedly, the Department will consider you to be the cause of your separation from work. You may even quit for a “good” reason, like attending school. However, you quit voluntarily, and so you will be ineligible.
In Kansas, the state law specifies under what circumstances you may quit and still qualify.
- being out of work based upon a physician’s advice due to illness or injury and finding no suitable work still available with the employer when released to return to work;
- leaving temporary employment to return to regular employment;
- leaving to enter military service and the entry is rejected or delayed;
- leaving work because of the transfer or acceptance of other work by a spouse in a location which makes commuting impractical;
- leaving because of hazardous working conditions;
- leaving to enter approved training;
- leaving because of unwelcome harassment;
- leaving to accept better work;
- leaving because of being instructed or required to violate the law in the commission of your job duties;
- leaving work because the employer violated the work agreement;
- leaving work because of a compelling, personal emergency.
If you believe this situation describes your circumstances, you should include the argument – with some evidence supporting it – in your claim. You should have made a reasonable effort to remedy the situation before quitting, however. Your employer will have an opportunity to dispute this with the claims examiner.
Fired but Still Eligible
If your employer dismissed you for cause, you will be ineligible for benefits. However, there may be circumstances under which you may still be eligible. Your employer may have dismissed you for a one-time rule violation. If you unintentionally violated a rule, you may be eligible for benefits.
The standard for disqualification is “misconduct while at work.” Your violation may get you fired, buy may not in fact be misconduct.
Under these circumstances, you may have to file an appeal to the Office of Appeals to be able to explain your side.
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Kansas.
For further information regarding filing for unemployment benefits in Kansas, you can research the following sites and documents:
To learn more about the process of filing the initial claim, visit the website of the Kansas Department of Labor‘s unemployment division, Getkansasbenefits.gov
For a general overview of unemployment benefits from the initial claim to the appeals procedure, read the Kansas unemployment insurance benefits information guide