Find out how unemployment benefits and workers’ comp work together in Arizona
When you are out of work, whether it is because you have been laid off or you were seriously injured, there may be several options for income replacement. Unemployment and workers’ compensation are among 2 of the most common and widely used financial benefits that help hardworking Arizonans make ends meet while they search for another job or heal from an injury.
It’s important to understand how these benefits interact with each other to be sure you get the compensation you are entitled to receive.
What is unemployment?
Unemployment insurance is designed to provide you with some income if you have lost your job through no fault of your own. This may be because you were laid off due to a work shortage or your company closed, leaving you with no work. The state determines unemployment benefits and the amount you may receive varies depending on where you live.
You are not usually eligible for unemployment if you were terminated for cause. Unemployment benefits are awarded regardless of your financial situation, but the amount you receive is limited. In addition, typically you can only receive unemployment benefits for 26 weeks in Arizona (and in most other states).
What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation, on the other hand, pays your medical bills and a portion of your average weekly wages when you get injured or become ill on the job. You may be eligible for workers’ compensation even if you are partially or fully responsible for your illness or injury, although there are some exceptions. For example, you may not be able to collect workers’ compensation if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when you were injured.
There are no limits to how long you can collect permanent disability workers’ compensation benefits, though generally it ranges from 3-7 years. As long as your doctor says you are unable to work, you may collect benefits in most cases. The insurance company will determine the amount you receive each month—usually around two-thirds of your regular salary.
Collecting unemployment and workers’ compensation
In most cases, you are unable to collect unemployment while you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. However, in some states, you may receive temporary partial disability payments if you are able to do some light-duty work but can’t perform your regular duties. If your employer doesn’t offer light duty, you may be able to receive unemployment benefits.
If you are seeking other employment, it’s possible you could qualify for unemployment—unless your state has rules against what is known as “double dipping.” In many states, the only way you are eligible for both unemployment and workers’ compensation is in the case of a serious injury, such as amputation, disfigurement or another catastrophic injury.
After a work injury recovery
If you have reached what is known as “maximum medical improvement,” (or MMI) you may be eligible for unemployment while you are searching for a new job. This happens if your doctor states that you have lasting mental or physical limitations that would make it impossible to perform your previous job duties.
In most cases, an employer will offer a workers’ compensation settlement or award permanent partial disability.
Old job no longer available
You may also qualify for unemployment if your old job is no longer available after you have recovered from your illness or injury. In every state, it’s illegal to fire someone for filing a workers’ compensation claim. However, in Arizona, your employer is not required to provide you with a job if the position you were in has been phased out or a work slowdown has led to layoffs.
FAQs about Arizona unemployment
How much do you get in unemployment in Arizona?
As of July 1, 2022, new unemployment claims can qualify for a weekly benefit ranging from $200 to $320. The top weekly benefit amount of $320 is accessible only for claims initiated on or after July 3, 2022, that also satisfy the wage eligibility criteria. However, there is no guarantee that claimants will receive the full weekly sum of $320. The eligible amount is determined by the wages the claimant earned while employed.
Is it easy to get unemployment in AZ?
The amount of unemployment insurance benefits you may receive, as well as your eligibility for these benefits, hinge on your income during a designated base period. While wage requirements for eligibility are fairly standardized across the U.S., each state has its own specific regulations.
In Arizona, to qualify for unemployment benefits, you need to fulfill 1 of 2 wage-based conditions:
- In the quarter where you had the highest income, you should have made at least 390 times Arizona’s minimum wage. Additionally, your total earnings in the other 3 quarters should be at least half of what you made in your highest-earning quarter. For example, if you made $6,000 in your highest-earning quarter, you would need to earn a minimum of $3,000 combined in the other three quarters.
- As an alternative, you can also qualify by earning at least $7,000 in total wages over a minimum of two quarters within the base period, provided that in at least one of these quarters, your wages were $5,987.50 or higher.
What disqualifies you from unemployment in Arizona?
There are various reasons you might be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits in Arizona, including:
- Voluntary quit. Leaving a job voluntarily without a “good cause” as defined by Arizona’s unemployment laws.
- Termination for misconduct. Being fired for reasons considered to be misconduct, such as violation of company policies, stealing or dishonesty.
- Insufficient earnings. Not meeting the minimum income requirements in your base period.
- Inability or unavailability to work. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must be able to work and be available for work. If you cannot work due to sickness, travel or any other reason, you might be disqualified.
- Refusal of suitable work. If you decline a reasonable job offer while receiving unemployment benefits, you will lose eligibility.
- Failure to actively seek employment. You are generally required to actively look for work and may be asked to provide evidence of your job search activities.
- Fraud. Providing false information or failing to disclose information that could affect eligibility could not only disqualify you but also result in legal consequences.
- Receiving other benefits. Any severance, vacation, holiday or sick pay must be deducted from the benefits for any week they’re received. The applicant won’t be eligible for benefits in any week where such payments exceed the weekly benefit amount. If these payments are less than the weekly benefit amount, then the sum of the payments, minus $30, will be taken out of the weekly benefit amount.
Each case is reviewed individually, and specific circumstances can affect eligibility. For the most accurate and current information, it’s best to consult Arizona’s Department of Economic Security or a legal expert familiar with unemployment law in Arizona.
Workers’ compensation denied
If your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company denies your claim and you are unable to work, this may make you eligible for unemployment. Keep in mind that if you are successful in getting the denial overturned, the unemployment benefits you have received could be deducted from the workers’ compensation you receive that covers the same timeframe.
State laws related to unemployment and worker’s compensation can be complicated. One of the best ways to preserve your rights under the law is to hire an attorney who understands both workers’ compensation and unemployment.
At the Law Offices of Robert E. Wisniewski, we have decades of experience helping people just like you get the compensation they deserve. Schedule your no-obligation consultation by calling us today or filling out the easy online form. We will guide you through the process.
Arizona Department of Economic Security | Your Partner for a Stronger Arizona. (2019). Az.gov. https://des.az.gov/