How worried should I be about this unemployment issue?
June 8, 2023 12:16 PM   Subscribe

I recently signed up for unemployment in Massachusetts after completing a contract position that ended on a positive note. They wanted information on all the jobs I've worked in the past year, which included one that ended badly. Will this affect my ability to collect?

I'm a proofreader and copy editor, and I've been doing a lot of contract work since the pandemic. I've worked three contract jobs over the past year; two of them ended when I completed the project and I came away from them with good references and a positive working experience.

I was placed at the third job last fall and was supposed to go temp-to-perm with it. I lasted about six weeks. My boss was rarely on site, and her assistants were tasked with training me. Neither of them were very good at it, both of them ignored reasonable requests I made during training (like slowing down and having me do some of the more complicated tasks with them present before doing them independently), and they both made the workplace a hostile environment for me. (One of my boss's assistants wore a denim jacket with a large anti-psychiatric drug button on the lapel that she draped over the back of her chair, and it was visible when she was training me. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and seeing this kept me from disclosing my status to my boss.) I sent my boss emails about the specific problems I was experiencing and asking her for a meeting, and she fired me through my recruiter the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I stupidly didn't copy my emails to my personal email account for documentation, so I don't have direct proof of any of this happening.

After this job ended, I was placed at a contract position that got extended from three to six months and ended on a positive note, and my recruiter (a different recruiter than the one who placed me at the previous position) told me at the end of the assignment that I was eligible for unemployment. I signed up for unemployment yesterday and the DOL asked for all the jobs I'd worked before signing up, and I had to fill out a form about my dismissal from the job I worked this fall as well as contact information for my supervisor there. I've been concerned that she'll say something that will prevent me from collecting unemployment.

Does this supervisor have the power to block me from receiving unemployment at all?
posted by pxe2000 to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Your supervisor is the temp company. Provide contact info for them. Even if it weren’t, it doesn’t sound like you did anything so bad that it would cause you not to get unemployment. Apply!
posted by momus_window at 12:34 PM on June 8 [7 favorites]

In general, "firing for cause" is not "you were not succeeding at this job so we let you go". People are often confused about this because it sounds like it would be "the cause was that you weren't succeeding in the job" and a no-cause situation would be a layoff due to the economy, etc. But firing for cause is about specific misconduct, like fraud or theft.

If the boss could just say "this person wasn't succeeding at the job and we didn't like them very much, no unemployment for them", very few people would collect unemployment because the boss would just say that every time.

Also, if "the boss said non-specific negative things about you to the unemployment board" kept people from getting unemployment, no one would get unemployment. As individuals, many bosses are neutral or positive about unemployment, but as a class they hate it - it's against their interests because it makes people less desperate. If mere negativity from them could end unemployment, it would not exist.
posted by Frowner at 12:50 PM on June 8 [4 favorites]

They want your job history because typically you have to be employed in the state for a certain period of time to qualify for unemployment.

If these were all through a staffing or temp firm then likely they would be considered your employer through all of these jobs, not the individual company.
posted by muddgirl at 12:54 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

> As individuals, many bosses are neutral or positive about unemployment, but as a class they hate it - it's against their interests because it makes people less desperate.

Also it costs companies money because they have to pay into the unemployment fund. Not that I think that's a bad thing, but from companies' perspectives, maybe not good.

Anyway, even if you were fired for cause (which it doesn't sound like you were), that was the prior job. The part that prevents you from getting unemployment is quitting (usually) or being fired for cause from your immediate past job.
posted by tubedogg at 3:16 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]

Look at your paystubs to see who your employer of record technically was on each of these jobs. That's what'll be on your W-2 at the end of the year, and that's what the unemployment system is expecting to see on the form you're currently filling out.

(That could be a temp/staffing company, or it could be a payroll company, or it could be the individual companies you were working for.)

In my state, and I assume in Massachusetts, they already have access to the W-2 job information, so writing something other than what they expect would likely cause delays / requests for clarification / etc.

But either way, as everyone's pointed out above, one of them ending badly shouldn't be a problem, but if they were your official W-2 employer and you leave them off the form, that'll cause headaches.
posted by nobody at 8:24 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]

In general, unemployment offices are not speaking to your supervisor. They are verifying with the HR department that you worked at that company during the timeframe you put in your application. There is little risk to including it, but leaving it off could jeopardize your application, for instance if it would mean you haven't worked enough hours in the state to qualify or if they found out about it but you hadn't listed it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:39 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]

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