Unfortunately, we are living in a day and age when a lot of people are being laid off, furloughed, or terminated. According to an article in the Texas Tribune, more than 1.5 million workers in Texas filed for unemployment benefits with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) from mid-March to mid-April. This is a staggering number. Additionally, many people have had to quit their jobs because of COVID related issues. This post will generally describe who can apply for unemployment benefits, the process people go through after applying for benefits, the standards TWC relies on to decide if an individual applying for benefits will get them, and the appeal rights for workers who are denied benefits to which they believe they are entitled.

Who can apply for unemployment benefits?

Anyone can apply for unemployment benefits that has lost their job, quit, or had their hours cut. It does not mean that you will necessarily get them, but it does not hurt to try. Even the TWC agrees with this assessment and recently told the El Paso Times that the agency advises anyone who is out of work or working reduced hours due to coronavirus to apply and see if they are eligible. Indeed, this is good advice in times of coronavirus and beyond. Worst case scenario, you don’t get them. Best case scenario, you do.

What happens after you apply for benefits?

After you apply for unemployment benefits, which most people do online, you will be contacted by a TWC representative for additional information about why you are out of work. You need to make sure you get TWC the information it wants by the deadline it gives you. The TWC is also going to contact your former employer about why you are out of work. The TWC will also give your former employer a certain deadline to provide information by. After the TWC has received the information it needs, or if the deadline to provide that information has passed, it will make its decision on whether you will be awarded benefits. You will want to be watching carefully for that decision because if TWC denies your benefits, as will be discussed in more detail below, you will have 14 days from the date the decision is mailed to appeal.

How does TWC decide if you will be awarded benefits?

TWC has to take a number of things into account when determining whether you are eligible for benefits, like how long you worked for the employer and such. But, one of the key things it must decide is if the reason you are out of work is a qualifying reason. Specifically, the TWC has to determine whether the employee “was separated form the last work as a result of a discharge based on work-connected misconduct or a voluntary quit without work-connected good cause.” You’re probably thinking to yourself right about now, what on earth does that mean? Well, it basically means, did your former employer have a good reason to fire you because of something you did or did you quit your job for no good reason that was work related. If your employer fired you for “work-connected misconduct” the TWC will deny your benefits. If you quit “without work-connected good cause” the TWC will deny your benefits. If TWC denies you benefits because it decides you were fired for work-connected misconduct or you quit without work connected good cause, you should contact our office to schedule an initial consultation with a Texas Employment Lawyer to discuss your appeal rights.

What appeal rights do you have if TWC denies your unemployment benefits?

If TWC denies your unemployment benefits, you have the right to appeal within 14 days of when the decision is mailed. This is important! It’s not 14 days from when you get it. It’s 14 days from when it is mailed. The decision will have the specific date on it which you must appeal by. Do NOT miss that appeal deadline. The appeal will get you a telephone hearing automatically and you can be represented by an attorney at that telephone hearing. If you have been denied unemployment benefits and want someone to represent you during your appeal hearing, you should contact our office right away to schedule an initial consultation. There are additional appeal rights if your benefits are denied after the telephone hearing. Those appeals also have very short deadlines and those deadlines must be met. If you have been denied your unemployment benefits after your telephone hearing, again, you can contact our office to schedule an initial consultation to discuss further options for appeal.

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Photo of Julie St. John Julie St. John

We asked Julie L. St. John, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Rob Wiley, P.C., to impart her candid answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Ms.

We asked Julie L. St. John, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Rob Wiley, P.C., to impart her candid answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Ms. St. John carries.

1. Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

Because I care about the rights of employees and believe all workers should be treated fairly. 

2. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

Guarantee a living wage for all workers.

 3. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

I worked as the beer cart girl at a golf course in college. 

4. What’s the best part of living in Houston?

Houston is clearly the best city in Texas, way better than Austin or Dallas. The people are wonderful, and the food is delicious. The only downside is the traffic, which is why I refuse to go outside of the loop (with a key exception for Ikea).

 5. If you were not practicing labor and employment law what would you be?

I would start a gardening/landscaping company with animals that do the work. The goats would eat the weeds, the pigs would till the ground, and the chickens would keep the bugs away.

6. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

To have another tool to use to fight for things I believe in. I’ve always wanted to change the world.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

Travel, watch Ohio State football, and work to make my cat instafamous.

8. What’s your favorite legal movie

The Pelican Brief because it features Tulane Law!

9. Have you ever learned something from one of your clients?

I learn something from almost all of my clients. Most importantly, courage.

10. Who do you most admire as a lawyer?

Kalandra Wheeler

Julie L. St. John is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Rob Wiley, P.C. She graduated from Ohio State University with her bachelor’s degree in 2007. Ms. St. John then graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 2017.