Tennessee Unemployment

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Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

General Benefits Eligibility Criteria

Tennessee unemployment benefit eligibility criteria are designed qualify those who meet the qualifications for benefits. . Eligibility criteria change every year in each state, though not by a wide range. If you do not meet these criteria, you will not receive  unemployment benefits.

The criteria are simple enough for most people to understand, but if you are uncertain, the best thing to do is apply for Tennessee unemployment. This will automatically gauge your eligibility as well as the amount in benefits you will receive.

Work Eligibility Criteria

Tennessee unemployment criteria are focused more on your wages than in other states. The wages criteria states that you must have made a certain amount of money in the first four of the last five quarters. This means that you must have worked during all five of those quarters (or longer) to receive unemployment benefits. Other work criteria include:

  • Being physically able to work at the time you file
  • Performing a job search every week, during which you contact at least three potential employers
  • Having a definite work return date (only applies if you are temporarily laid off and will return to your employer)
  • Receiving training approved by the unemployment agency

These criteria are put into place to ensure that those who are receiving unemployment benefits aren't taking advantage of the system and are actively looking for appropriate work. Appropriate work is a full-time position that offers at least 80 to 90 percent of your previous wages.

Wages Eligibility Criteria

To earn unemployment benefits in Tennessee, you must have earned at least $780.01 in two quarters of your base period. This is a minimum of $1,506.02 during that six month period. It is important to note that these quarters do not need to be consecutive.

The base period in Tennessee is fixed at the first four of the last five calendar quarters. The last quarter is a “lag” period and does not figure into your benefits. Currently, there is no alternative base period in Tennessee, so if you do not meet this criteria, you will receive no benefits.

EXAMPLE: You earned $800 from January to March of 2015 and $900 from April to June. That is $1,700, which is well above the $1,506.02 minimum. Note that you will still qualify for unemployment if your wages in the other two quarters did not meet the minimum of $780.01 per quarter. Your benefits, however, will be lower.

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Unemployment Availability Limits

Your unemployment availability will be limited or eliminated if you:

  • Quit your job without a good cause
  • Were discharged for misconduct
  • Participated in a labor dispute
  • Did not seek or accept suitable work

Good causes for quitting a job include health problems that make it impossible for you to continue your duties. These must be proven by medical documentation, however, in order to be eligible. Also, if you were let go because of poor behavior on the job (such as committing a work-related crime or sexual harassment), you are also ineligible.

Working part time will decrease, but not necessarily eliminate, your weekly benefits. The rule here is simple: if you earn up to $50 or 25 percent of your Weekly Benefit Amount (whichever is greater), your benefits are not reduced.

In the weeks that you earn more than the minimum, your benefits will be decreased at the discretion of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. If you earn more than your Weekly Benefit Amount, however, you will lose your benefits.

Unemployment Extensions

Tennessee was one of the many states that received unemployment extensions through the federal government in the earlier part of the decade. Although, many states lost these benefits as early as 2012, Tennessee continued to receive them up to 2014.  The state currently, however, has no extension program and pays a maximum of 26 weeks.