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How to apply for unemployment benefits in California in 4 steps

By on June 21, 2019

Step 1: Evaluate whether you meet the criteria to apply

You must satisfy three initial requirements to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. However, if you are uncertain whether you meet the necessary requirements, it is strongly recommended to apply for benefits and let the EDD make an official decision.

Satisfactory Immigration Status:

Benefits can be collected by any United States citizens, workers with valid sorts of work authorization and green card holders. When you file your claim, you must have evidence to prove that you legally inhabit in the United States and are authorized to work here. Workers without complete documents are not eligible for Unemployment Insurance.

Past Earnings Requirement:

To qualify for UI benefits, you must have sufficient “past earnings” in “covered employment”. This comprises almost all types of services rendered as an employee for almost any kind of wages. Independent contractors or self-employed individuals are not generally included by the covered employment requirement.

In order to determine if you meet the past earnings requirement, the EDD performs a detailed analysis of your earnings during the time period defined as your “Base Period”. The standard Base Period is the 12 month period which ended between four to six months before you filed your claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

To qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount ($1,252) you must earn at least $27,126.67 in a calendar quarter during your base period. Your weekly benefit payment amount may vary if you receive other income (such as sick leave pay, paid time off, etc.) while receiving DI benefits from the Employment Development Department (EDD).

The requirement of No-Fault Separation:

The third and final initial requirement is that your employment has ceased through no fault of your own. The two most ordinary examples of “no-fault” separation are the completion of the contract period or layoff for lack of work. It is noteworthy to mention that even if you initially meet all three eligibility requirements, you must further certify continued compliance with several continuing eligibility requirements, as further explained below.

Step 2: Evaluate when would be the best time for you to apply

You can file for benefits as soon as you become unemployed, and while there is no specific deadline to file your claim, it is generally advised that you apply for benefits as soon as possible. Again, your claim will become effective on the first Sunday prior to the date of the filing of your claim.

However, one outlier scenario where it may not be prudent to immediately file your unemployment claim is if your compensation (wages) had significant variations within the past 18 months before your most recent loss of employment. To further clarify, since your weekly benefits amount depends on your Base Period earnings, it can make sense to delay your claim filing until a later date if it would result in a Base Period with a larger total earnings amount. The probability of a larger weekly benefit amount should be evaluated against the downside of applying later and postponing your benefits. This tactic may not be advisable if you anticipate obtaining new employment soon or you are in need of immediate income in the form of UI benefits.

Step 3: Gather together all necessary documents and information

When applying for UI benefits you will have to provide certain information to the EDD. Below is an enumerated overview of information that you must keep ready before filing your claim for benefits:

  • Claimant’s information including all names used at the workplace, residence and mailing address, telephone number, social security number, ID card number or driving license.
  • Information about each employer you have worked for during the period of 18 months before filing your claim. Employer’s information includes name, wages earned, the period of employment and how you were paid.
  • The exact date you worked for each employer and the number of hours you were working each week. If you were only doing part-time work, you should still inform the EDD of this part-time work and also provide them with the amount of part-time hours worked per week.
  • Last employer information details such as name, physical location, mailing address, and telephone number. Ensure that you provide the right spelling of the employer’s name and address as the EDD is required to mail a notice to your last employer. Providing the wrong details won’t will likely hold up your benefit payments.
  • You also have to mention the key reason for leaving your last job.
  • The EDD will inquire into any additional payments from ex-employer(s) that you anticipate receiving, and in some exceptional cases may require deductions from your benefits based on these additional payments.
  • Whether you are capable of being employed and available to accept any work.
  • Whether you are legally authorized to work in the United States. If applicable, folks may be requested for their alien registration number

Step 4: Submit your unemployment benefits claim application

There are two primary methods of filing a claim:

Via telephone

You may call the EDD’s toll-free number i.e. 1 (800) 300-5616 (for Spanish speakers, the phone number is 1 (800) 326-8937. The claim filing department is open between the hours of 8:00 AM & 5:00 PM Monday to Friday. Be prepared to wait on hold for long periods of time in many cases. The EDD website contains several other phone numbers for speakers of other languages as well individuals that are deaf or hard of hearing.

Via the EDD’s online portal

You can also choose to submit your claim online at https://www.edd.ca.gov/Unemployment/UI_Online.htm. This method is generally the fastest option for submitting your application as you can type your answers and submit your claim instantly.

Once you submit your application whether through the internet or by phone, the EDD will mail your various documents, including:

  • A Guide to Services and Benefits: This particular guide offers a normal description of the Unemployment Insurance system and employment-related services provided by the EDD.
  • Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed: This notice contains pertinent informant related to your case and also substantiates that you have filed an appeal. It’s your responsibility to review the included information in detail and report to the EDD without delay if there is any error.
  • Notice of Unemployment Insurance Award: This notice provides a calculation based on your past earnings and shows how much you will get in benefits if you are considered eligible. Notably, this notice does not necessarily mean you will be awarded benefits, but rather provides the amount you will receive if you are considered eligible. It is advisable to review the information contained in this notice and inform the EDD immediately if you feel anything is incorrect or inaccurate.

IMPORTANT TIP: If the wages on the foregoing notice is incorrect or inaccurate then you should directly request a “recalculation” from the EDD and submit the copies of proofs of wages earned. Inaccuracies are all too common by the EDD. They can be caused by your former employer’s failure to properly report all earnings or failure to pay all taxes owed to the EDD, or the EDD simply may have made a mistake in calculating your wages. Whatever the source, you should gather together whatever proof of increased wages earned during your employment and attempt to resolve the issue quickly. Common forms of proof to verify increased total wages may include: bank statements, work schedules, time sheets, tax records, and wage statements.

A “Notice of Unemployment Insurance Claim Filed” will also be mailed to your current employer, by the EDD. The employer will get 10 days to submit any facts which may impact your eligibility for benefits. If an employer fails to respond, he will lose the right to oppose or otherwise challenge your claim.

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