My boyfriend recently lost his job, and today he found out he's ineligible for unemployment. His life is in shambles. What can I do to help?
September 20, 2012 7:19 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend recently lost his job, and today he found out he's ineligible for unemployment. His life is in shambles. What can I do to help?

My boyfriend and I have been together for nine months. He's the kindest, sweetest, most wonderful man I have ever known, and is passionate about and committed to his work. After several years in a prior position, he began a new job in July. He made a stupid, stupid error which he knows is all his fault, and at the end of August, they let him go because of this. To make matters worse, he received notification today that he is ineligible for unemployment because his mistake was a violation of his former employer's handbook, which he signed off on when he was hired. He has been looking for a job since the day he got let go, but he works in a niche field and there hasn't been much to apply to. Today he got a rejection letter from the one in-person interview that he's had.

He has no savings, no credit, and no one is in a position to help him financially. He plans to appeal the unemployment ruling, but in the meantime, tomorrow he is going to start pounding the pavement looking for any employment that he can find.

He is absolutely broken up about this, as one might expect. He's still beating himself up over the mistake that he made and things just seem to be getting worse. I've already told him that I have no intention of bailing on him just because things have gotten rough, but I'm not sure what else I can do to help him at this point. Lending money is a slippery slope, and I'm not really in much of a position to do that, anyway.

To those of you who have been my boyfriend in this situation: what can I do to help? What can I say? It kills me to see him so upset. On the flipside, how do I maintain my own mental health while all of this is going on? I'm working a very stressful full-time job, going to grad school at night, and have a mother with BPD who support emotionally and sometimes financially. This is a lot for me to handle, but I want to be there for him.
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Probably a major thing is that as long as he's looking, to not blame him for being unable to find a job. If he's looking for help or advice you might say "did you check these listings" or "have you considered a lower paying job/one with lower salary but nice benefits," but earlier this year I was unemployed for several months and it was kind of frustrating to hear family members accuse me of not looking hard enough. I'm sure you're not doing this, but if you haven't been out of work in awhile sometimes it's easy to forget how difficult it can be to find a job, especially at the moment.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:46 PM on September 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

Over a decade ago, I was in a bad spot. The tech market had crashed, I had lost my job as a programmer (and in that economy, it was REALLY hard to get a new one), and my parents were having one of their "mood swings" so I knew that if I didn't find a job, I could well have been homeless. I asked them if I could at least move into the guest house until I got back on my feet, and they told me "No, we use it sometimes. Hey, why don't you join the military? There are lots of opportunities there for a bright guy like you!" Needless to say, it was one of the lowest spots in my life.

One thing that really helped my spirits at the time was that two of my best friends sensed my worries and told me that no matter how bad things got with the economy or my family, I would always have a place to stay and I would never have to worry about being homeless. As it turned out, I got a new job shortly after that, so I didn't have to rely on them at all, but realizing for the first time that I had that safety net - that I would always have people who legitimately cared whether I lived or died - was the best feeling in the world for me. The world is a very dark and lonely place when you feel that you have nobody to lean on.

This doesn't mean that you should do exactly the same thing as my friends did, but letting your boyfriend know that he can count on you is a very inspiring thing. Don't underestimate it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:49 PM on September 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I think that even just sitting with him as he searches for jobs online and reading over his cover letters and offering feedback would be hugely comforting for him. It's nice to just have someone on your side as you are dealing with the stress and tedium that come with a job hunt.
posted by cheerwine at 7:50 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if he becomes overly negative it's within the bounds of good behavior to tell him you think he's panicking and it's not helping. Tell him odds are good that in a couple years this will all be nothing in retrospect, and that one mistake hasn't destroyed his life. Just keep encouraging him and reminding him that you never know which application is going to get an interview.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:51 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you materially help out? Even if it's just paying for pizza and a movie so that he's able to feel like he can still enjoy himself without guilt about money.

Or more substantially, can he move in with you?

I have a feeling he's going to want more emotional support and less suggestions about how to make money, but where do you guys live? If you're in a city with a techy community, I have to recommend TaskRabbit. It's an easy way to make quick cash, especially if he is in any way handy or OK with manual labor (seriously I've met dudes who basically make a full-time living as handymen and movers via TaskRabbit).

On a more emotional level, be prepared to cut him a lot of slack. Being unemployed is demoralizing. It's especially demoralizing when you have whatever is in your checking account to your name, and no way of getting more unless you physically generate it yourself. And probably in somewhat humiliating ways, unless you luck into an opening in your field. And then, of course, every interview for a job you actually want becomes this Huge Deal, and not getting it means you're a Failure fit only for flipping burgers.

Also, this will probably depend by state, but he should look into the appeals process for the unemployment thing. That sounds weird to me (though I guess it varies from state to state). I recently found out that in my state -- New York -- you actually can't be denied unemployment for wrongdoing that is a "failure to live up to expectations" sort of thing. This will of course depend on the rule he broke, but if they are justifying it with some penny-ante technicality "company policy" he "violated" (like, I dunno, being ten minutes late one time or not wearing a tie on the sales floor or whatnot), he may want to at least look into whether there is an appeals process and what it entails.
posted by Sara C. at 7:54 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Has he appealed the denial of unemployment benefits? If he's in the USA, it might be that he can only be denied if it was something like a grievous, intentional violation rather than a screw up, regardless of whatever it says in the employee handbook.
posted by infinitywaltz at 8:06 PM on September 20, 2012 [14 favorites]

A long time ago, I screwed up something big at work. Truth told, it wasn't even mostly my fault, by boss dropped the ball - but I got the blame for it anyway.

I thought I was toast, but my girlfriend helped me keep fighting and I ended up going back to school. Now I make 2-3 times what I did then. I used that story in interviews as a demonstration of how I turned a bad thing into a positive thing.

My point is that sometimes things happen, and you gotta roll with the. Newt Gingrich married his high school math teacher and divorced her when he met what he considered an upgrade. He dumped the second wife when she was recovering from cancer to marry the harlot he had taken up with - and was still a serious contender for president of the USA.

My point is that failures are temporal - not permanent. Accept responsibility and try to build from it. One of my engineering professors told us that failures were the best thing that could possibly happen - success tells what what was good enough, but doesnt predict future failure. Failure tells you what sucked and tells you what future success looks like.

Hope this helps. Keep your chin up. Memail me if you need more.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:19 PM on September 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

he received notification today that he is ineligible for unemployment because his mistake was a violation of his former employer's handbook

Notification from whom? If it's from the company, ignore. If it's from the Unemployment Office, he should *definitely* appeal- I'm sure there is a process. It depends on your state, but in most cases an honest error is not cause to deny unemployment, regardless of it was printed in a handbook. This is especially true if it was "one strike and you're out" and he was never given written warning or a chance to rectify his error.
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:46 PM on September 20, 2012 [17 favorites]

For your own health it is great that you recognise that this is an additional stress in a pretty full life. Of you see long term potential in your relationship then it is perfectly fair to re-direct some of your emotional/financial resources from your mother to your boyfriend. She most likely won't like that but honestly, when you are talking about limited resources , you have to be kind of macavillian about looking for a return of investment on your resources. So if you think you can depend on your boyfriend's support in future then it make sense to "invest" in him.

For him, support could be doing things together, NOT talking about job searching with him -unlike pretty much everyone else will be doing, scaling your own budget down to his level (dvds and a home cooked spaghetti dinner as dates). Sex is also pretty cheap, uplifting and something nice to do together. If you believe he will land on his feet then live your life with him with that assumption and your confidence alone should help him.

In a similar situation I put my boyfriend on my private benefits plan as my common-law partner so he had access to free medicine, glasses etc (this will obviously depend on your jurisdiction). It was a practical support that made a huge difference without costing me any money out of pocket.
posted by saucysault at 8:50 PM on September 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, appeal the bloody unemployment denial. It seems like unemployment is playing games now with people in denying their claims. I'd love to see statistics on this. Everyone I know that has been denied once that have gone on to dispute the denial (with a reasonable argument) had won. Just takes aggravation and time to process.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:05 PM on September 20, 2012

This happened to me in early 2009, and I was most definitely not eligible for unemployment. I had been out of the country and not working for a good portion of 2008. So, it happens.

To answer your question, I would have loved any help I could've gotten with tasks not involving job hunting. Grocery shopping, cleaning, running errands. Any support you could give that would free up his time and energy to look for a gig would probably be much appreciated.

And Sara C's first suggestion is good. A dinner here, a movie there might help. If he's the type who's not comfortable with you paying for things outright, a home-cooked meal or game night could be nice, distracting and low pressure.
posted by lunalaguna at 9:17 PM on September 20, 2012

I hope this isn't too far off-topic, because it's not exactly what you can do, but has he tried a temp agency? Large employers use them to vet prospective hires and I know this first-hand. The last time I used a temp agency to net a job, it paid about 25k and had terrible benefits. Still, it was something.

Sometimes before a longer-term assignment, there'll often be a one-off/ one-time-only assignment which is a way of testing whether or not the person will show up on time, have a good attitude, and put in a day's work.
posted by codswallop at 11:22 PM on September 20, 2012

In the UK, you can ask your previous employer to provide a 'basic reference' which just confirms employment dates, not comments about performance or reasons for leaving. If this is possible where you are, it would be a good idea to avoid job offers not coming through based on references.
posted by mippy at 2:49 AM on September 21, 2012

He may be too embarrassed to go under what he considers his bar of standards as far as employment goes... but sometimes thats just what you gotta do. Don't support him financially unless you know he's exhausted ALL job opportunities, not just those in his niche field. Theres alot of jobs (service, retail, construction, manual labor, etc.) that "professional" people somehow forget exist.

Can't tell you how many "struggling artists" I've known that are fed and housed by their girlfriends, because hey, nobody's commissioning amateur professional niche artwork these days!
posted by el_yucateco at 7:10 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definitely appeal. It does seem like employers are denying a lot more appeals these days. I saw a friend's paperwork when he went to appeal a denial and it was fairly ugly; they accused him of offenses like "insubordination" which I really doubt he was guilty of. Anyway, he won.
posted by BibiRose at 7:57 AM on September 21, 2012

Appeal, appeal, appeal—as has been said above. The only people who can make a determination about eligibility is your particular state. I've had to fight for unemployment before (tech companies especially seem to want to get out of paying it, and will lie and distort to do it.) You'll see nonsense like "insubordination" and "negligence"; it's B.S. Ignore and appeal. If you're well-spoken and truthful you'll win. Companies gain nothing by avoiding paying since they've already paid into unemployment. That's one reason I don't understand denying claims.

As for being helpful, this may be a time to step in with some material support. More than that, he's going to need to know that you don't see him as some loser freeloader. You need some workable definition of financial support, though. I'd avoid paying his rent or car payment, but if some groceries find their way to him—or you treat him to cheap dinner and a movie it might go a long way towards lifting his spirits. It's hard to search for a job when you are emotionally crushed.
posted by littlerobothead at 8:58 AM on September 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, shoot. I said "denying appeals" when I meant denying initially.
posted by BibiRose at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2012

Please remind him that other benefits programs do not have the same qualifying requirements as Unemployment Insurance or other Unemployment Benefits. For that reason, he needs to look into programs like Food Stamps (now called SNAP - Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - in the US) to help in the interim.
posted by jph at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2012

IAAL; IANYBL. Nthing responses regarding applying for, or appealing a denial of, unemployment insurance benefits. Whether the employer's reason for termination is one that excludes him from benefits is a question that has to do with your state's law regarding unemployment insurance benefits. I don't practice in this area of law, but the benefits are more flexible than employers would usually have a former-employee believe. In my state, one is disqualified for "misconduct" which has a specific legal meaning determined by the Legislature, and not by an employment manual. "Misconduct" that will disqualify one from unemployment benefits is more than mere inefficiency, unsatisfactory conduct, inadvertencies, ordinary negligence, or good faith errors in judgment.

In my state "misconduct" is basically means conduct evincing such wilful or wanton disregard of an employer's interest as is found in deliberate violations or disregard of standards of behavior which employer has right to expect of his employee, or in carelessness or negligence of such degree, or recurrence as to manifest equal culpability, wrongful intent or evil design, or to show an intentional and substantial disregard of employer's interest or of employee's duties and obligations to his employer.

Your boyfriend's state may have similar rules, so your boyfriend should ignore whatever crap his employer tells him and apply and fight for those benefits. He paid into it, after all.
posted by Hylas at 12:57 PM on September 21, 2012

Let me make a perhaps bad analogy.
A carpentry shop makes you sign a statement "I will not cut my fingers off and bloody up the company's equipment."
You use a table saw that does not have a safety guard, nor push blocks, nor auto cut off. You end up cutting off your fingers, the blood causes the saw to short circuit.
They fire you for violating company policy.

Perhaps he is in a similar situation, and has cause for a lawsuit. They are aware of the potential for harm, aware to the point it's in the handbook, but did they do anything to PREVENT it from happening?

also, look up examples of well run companies that gave employees bonuses when they brought their expensive screwup to the attention of management. Theory is that catching the problem early and fixing the cause is far more productive than a coverup.
posted by anon4now at 6:49 PM on September 22, 2012

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