Most states, including New Hampshire, allow workers to qualify for unemployment benefits only if they are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. But each state sets its own fault standards, so a fired New Hampshire worker needs to get an overview of the state's rules on unemployment eligibility to determine whether they will get UI benefits.
It is important to remember that state unemployment insurance benefits laws can be modified by the federal government. Generally, states determine UI eligibility within their borders and manage their own unemployment benefits program, but in some circumstances, the federal government supplements the state program, as it did in 2020. After the COVID-19 pandemic closed most businesses in the country and caused nonessential workers to be unemployed, the federal government stepped in. The resulting laws impact some state rules of UI eligibility.
New Hampshire UI Eligibility
In order to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in New Hampshire, a worker must meet three requirements:
- Earned at least a minimum amount in wages in the year before they became unemployed.
- Be able to work and are actively seeking a new job.
- Be unemployed through no fault of their own, as defined by New Hampshire law.
While the question of how much an employee earned in their base period is a straightforward mathematical calculation, the other two conditions depend on state regulations. The New Hampshire of Employment Security (NHES) agency determines the issue by looking at a worker's circumstances. For example, those in jail, on vacation or in school full time are not likely to be considered available to work, nor is someone with transportation or child care issues. A worker must also actively look for work each week and provide the contact information to the agency.
New Hampshire Unemployment Claims and Disqualification for Fault
The requirement that a worker be unemployed due to no fault of their own depends on how the state's law defines "at fault." Sometimes it is pretty clear. For example, if a company experiences financial problems and lays off half its workers, the employees bear no responsibility for being out of work. Their out-of-work status is not of their own making, and they will qualify for unemployment in New Hampshire, assuming the other conditions are met.
Likewise, when a worker is fired for seriously bad behavior, like punching a supervisor or stealing money from the till, they are definitely at fault for the termination – but for their misconduct, they would still be working. In New Hampshire, misconduct includes any conduct the employee engaged in willingly or any matter that was under the worker's control. It will preclude unemployment eligibility if the conduct negatively impacted the former employer. Missing too much work, frequent tardiness, insubordination and/or breaking company rules or policy will be considered misconduct for UI purposes.
Getting Fired and Employee Misconduct
From this discussion, it may seem like anyone who gets fired might not be eligible for UI benefits in New Hampshire. That is not, in fact, the case. If an employee is fired in New Hampshire for a crime, sexual harassment, disobeying company policies or unruly behavior, it can be misconduct sufficient to exclude the worker from the UI program. If, however, the worker is fired for not being able to keep up with the work, not being adequately trained for the tasks or simply because they are not considered a good fit in the company ambiance, it is not misconduct.
Note that being fired itself does not make a worker ineligible for UI benefits. Only being fired for misconduct will automatically disqualify a fired employee. And the misconduct must be serious. For example, a worker who is fired for making errors on the job or for not getting along with others may still get benefits.
The New Hampshire Employment Security agency is charged with determining eligibility for each unemployment claimant. They will hold discussions with an employer to figure out if the claimant's firing resulted from serious misconduct..
Pandemic Unemployment Insurance
In some circumstances, the federal government enacts legislation to modify or supplement state UI programs. It did this in March, 2020, when most businesses in the country were closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act at that time in order to assist workers who lost their jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic. This law allowed for expanded eligibility and also provided expanded supplemental unemployment benefits.
The initial CARES Act provided for a supplemental payment provision giving $600 per week to unemployed persons in federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) benefits in addition to a state's unemployment benefits. The CARES Act also added up to 13 weeks of supplemental unemployment benefits and extended UI eligibility for self-employed and gig workers under a program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Both laws were modified by subsequent legislation, reducing the supplemental payments to $300 a week and extending the federal programs through September 6, 2021, among other provisions.
Federal Laws Modify Eligibility Requirements
The federal legislation that created pandemic UI benefits also modified state laws in terms of fault. That is, it provided additional reasons a worker can lose or leave their job without becoming ineligible for UI. Generally, these federal laws added coronavirus-related reasons to the list, including if a worker:
- Is ill with COVID-19.
- May have been exposed to the virus.
- Has been advised by a doctor to stay home so they are not exposed to the virus or don't expose others.
- Must stay home to care for someone with COVID-19.
- Has to care for a child at home because the child's school or child care center is closed due to coronavirus.
Some of these reasons for not going to work might have been considered misconduct, under New Hampshire state UI rules. For example, if a New Hampshire worker stays home months at a time to care for a child, that worker, in normal circumstances might be fired for misconduct and ineligible for benefits. Under the federal CARES Act, the worker would be eligible for benefits.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.