I often get questions relating to unemployment benefits–whether or not an employee is eligible for unemployment, whether a business owner has to pay out “unemployment settlements,” and how fired employees (or employees that quit) can go about applying.

My response is always the same: “Contact your local unemployment office.”

Do I know the factors for determining eligibility? Yes (the Federal guidelines, anyways).
Do I know how ridiculous it is to think an owner would somehow believe they have to pay out a settlement to an employee trying to claim Federal benefits? Yes.
Could I share this information if I really wanted to? Sure.
Will I? No.

There are several reasons for this.

1.) I am not the person to ask.
Unemployment is this big, huge, messy, complicated thing I have no desire to get into. Your eligibility could be compromised by your employment classification, your compensation method, how you ended up unemployed, and a whole other plethora of factors I am not qualified to analyze. As far as the employer’s side is concerned, all I know is that you have the ability to contest the applicant’s request and potentially have their request declined. I don’t know how to do that, what is involved, how long it takes, or who you need to call.

In the end, you’ll have to contact your unemployment office anyways, so I’ve always seen this as a massive waste of my time.

No offense. I always want to help and I am always happy to help, but seriously–just go down to your unemployment office. Your alternative is to check the Almighty Google. There are a gazillion credible websites that will tell you everything you need to know about unemployment benefits. (Look at that! I found one right here!)

2.) Your state provides a full staff of government employees who are paid to help you with this crap.
Again, no offense, but not only do I not know enough about your employment situation, I also don’t know enough about your particular state’s method for determining eligibility or calculating your benefit amount–nor should I have to. I am not being paid to know that stuff. Your state’s employees are, though. So call them.

If you need help finding Federal statutes, tracking down state labor laws, finding/interviewing a reputable attorney in your area, drafting an employee handbook, getting a professional’s opinion on the fairness of your professionally written employment contract or lease (don’t send me some crap you typed up–if it’s not written by a lawyer that specializes in employment or commercial landlord/tenant law, I do not want to see it), or figuring out how to structure your compensation method in a way that is both ethical and profitable–email me. That stuff I can totally help you with.

Do not email me your pay stubs and ask me, “How much money will I get in unemployment?”
I. Don’t. Know.

3.) From what I’ve heard, filing for and getting awarded unemployment can be time-consuming and complicated.
I’m certain the process is intentionally designed to be difficult and exclusive to deter abuse. Is it really worth going through the application process? Wouldn’t the time you spend interviewing with an unemployment agent be better spent interviewing with a potential employer?

It can take a loooong time to get approved for unemployment–and their criteria for approval are set in a way that makes the privilege of receiving one of those unemployment checks your taxes pay for exclusive to those people who are “let go” through no fault of their own. If your ex-employer contests your application, they can delay this payment even longer.

Remember what I said about messy? Federal employment classification guidelines, auditing protocols, and labor laws are complicated enough. My brain can only handle so much. There are some things I just don’t want to know about or deal with. This is one of them.

4.) You don’t get much money.
Certainly, some money is better than no money if you’re not working, but a lot of states don’t pay out much. Nolo says that, although the formulas vary by state, a typical formula pays half of the employee’s former weekly wages.

I don’t know your situation. So to ask me, “Should I file for unemployment?” is ridiculous. It’s like asking me whether you should leave your husband or refinance your mortgage. I have NO WAY of giving you an informed opinion on that.

You know your financials.
You know your area’s job market.
You know how likely you are to appeal to a salon owner and find a new job within a reasonable amount of time.

Only you can decide whether filing is right for you. If you can’t decide, call your mother or hire a life coach or something. I love you ladies, but sometimes to keep from steering you wrong, I have to keep from steering altogether and force you to take the wheel. You are the expert where your life is concerned. Not me. I don’t want to be responsible for one of you having to live off canned cat food you paid for with change you found in your couch cushions because I told you to focus on finding a new job instead of filing. That is a responsibility I could do without.

5.) State employees are often a pain in the ass to deal with.
I’m not saying I haven’t had some fantastic experiences dealing with state employees. Where I live, we have the most wonderful DMV and county courthouse staff I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Truly, they are exceptional professionals that really seem to enjoy helping the citizens–but let’s face it, not every county will have the same reputation for stellar customer service that mine does.

My hometown, for example, had terrible government employees. Ridiculous wait times, bad attitudes, baffling incompetence–it was such a headache to deal with them! Having my driver’s license renewed put me in a bad mood for a week. It was five years ago and I still get pissed when I think about it.

I can’t imagine willingly subjecting myself to that with such poor incentive when you could do so yourself. I have often made phone calls to state and Federal authorities to ask questions on behalf of readers who have emailed me. I really don’t mind when the issue is something interesting and substantial that can be applied to a blog post that could potentially help hundreds of people.

However, calling a state agency to figure out whether a person who was fired for having sex with her boyfriend in the facial room even though she was technically on her lunch break is eligible for unemployment is NOT my idea of something substantial or particularly beneficial. Sorry. It just isn’t. You can make that call yourself.

The only advice I will ever give regarding unemployment benefits:
Before anyone argues that this opinion of mine is politically motivated–I can assure you that isn’t the case. Nothing I say is ever politically motivated.

Three things are true about me. These three things dictate my opinions:
1.) I like rules and order. I believe everyone should follow the laws. That isn’t to say I agree with every law ever. I just think that it is in everyone’s best interest to follow them. If you don’t like the laws, I suggest doing something about it, not violating them at your will.
2.) I dislike things that are inconvenient and don’t make sense to an extreme degree.
3.) I hate when people are being taken advantage of and believe everyone should be treated fairly and ethically. I don’t care if you’re the salon’s janitor or the owner–people in all positions deserve equal amounts of respect and appreciation.

Where unemployment is concerned, number two applies. It just seems like a huge, irritating waste of time that could be better directed elsewhere.

As I’ve said in other posts, I see things in equations. The Unemployment Equation does not add up to me. Again, this is my personal opinion based on my personal values and experiences–both of which may differ wildly from yours. You should always do whatever you think is right for you, but I see it this way:
EQUATION:
   Difficult/Potentially Irritating Application Process
+ Extremely Selective Approval
+ Potential Employer Claim Contest
+ Long Wait Time for Payout
+ Low Payout
RESULT:
 Stressful, High Risk/Low Reward, Waste of Valuable Time You Could Be Spending Finding A Damn Job.

If you’re laid off through no fault of your own, you certainly do deserve some compensation to get you through your job search time, but unless you’re completely unemployable, there shouldn’t be any reason why you can’t find another job within the vast amount of time it would take for you to go through the application process and ever collect a check (I mean, unless your town has some strange, severe shortage of salons to work at, lol).

If you live somewhere with an abundance of salons to choose from and you’re having trouble finding a place to work, chances are that you need to reevaluate your application and interview strategy. Wearing inappropriate clothing, over-the-top makeup, and showing up without a resume or portfolio are all great ways to guarantee you’ll remain unemployed.

Our industry is one that is fairly casual in nature, but a lot of places have moved towards projecting a more polished, professional image. Fishnets and tank tops just aren’t as acceptable as they used to be. Likewise, tattoos and piercings–which have been fairly permissible in the salon environment–are starting to fall out of favor, so while you shouldn’t let that deter you from applying at an upper-end salon if that’s what you want to do, you should probably aim for places that are more accepting of your body art.

If I found myself suddenly unemployed, this is personally what I would do. I’d eliminate my non-essential expenses on Day 1 to be on the safe side. As soon as that was done, I would be hitting salons and chain-interviewing. I would be calling schools and offering to come in as a guest educator. I would be visiting distributors and asking if I could host some classes or lectures. I’d be sending out queries to magazine editors to sell some articles.

My hustle would be at its peak. I would not be spending a single second of my time waiting in an unemployment office or hoping my savings could carry me through until I received my first unemployment check. I have no desire to do any of that and I definitely wouldn’t want to have any period of unemployment come up on my resume. To me, it’s just not worth it and honestly, I think the majority of you are more resourceful than that.

So please, stop asking me questions about unemployment. It’s out of my pay grade and not something I want to deal with. Here’s an A-Z list of state unemployment agencies you can contact. Good luck!

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