If you are fired (aka discharged, terminated) from your job then one of your first acts in almost all cases should be to apply for unemployment benefits. Applying for unemployment benefits through the Texas Workforce Commission is free so even if denied benefits you have only lost the time applying. This is true even if your employer believes it had a legitimate reason to fire you.
The TWC has specific standards for awarding unemployment benefits. The employer’s reason for terminating your employment may not meet those standards. Sometimes employers do not defend against an unemployment benefit application. You can receive benefits even if your former employer had a legitimate defense for terminating your employment that it could have raised but did not. It’s an employer’s burden to defend their actions. You do not have to help them along by not applying.
Unemployment benefits and wrongful termination in Texas
Additionally, if you believe you have legal claims against your employer related to your employment or termination then it is almost always important to apply for unemployment benefits. This is true for two reasons. First, you have a duty to mitigate your damages. That means if there are reasonable opportunities for you to minimize your lost wages, such as receiving unemployment benefits and looking for a new job, you must take them. Second, when the employer raises a defense to your unemployment benefits the employer locks in a legal position why you were fired. This can be extremely useful to prevent the employer from changing its story when you file a lawsuit on your other employment claims. Often employers delegate responding to unemployment benefits to HR staff. They may inadvertently lock the employer into a weak defense.
How to apply for unemployment benefits in Texas
Unemployment benefits are administered by the Texas Workforce Commission, an agency of the State of Texas that handles unemployment benefits, anti-discrimination claims, wage claims and other labor issues under state law. You can find more information and begin the application process here.
I have three general pieces of advice for your unemployment benefits application:
- Apply for unemployment benefits early. If you prevail on your application then you will receive benefits retroactively to your termination date. Start getting benefits as soon as possible so you can keep current on your bills. If you wait to apply then you might end up blowing it off and not applying at all.
- Be honest about the facts. Don’t lie about the facts. The folks who handle the TWC unemployment application hearings do it all day every day. They are likely to spot lies, especially if the employer has contradictory evidence. You may have to explain a change in your description of events at a later point too. You may disagree with the employer’s explanation of the facts or disagree that the facts support their conclusion. That is fine. You should make that argument. Just don’t change facts to lies to support your argument.
- Speak with an employment attorney if you have other potential claims. If you think you might have other claims, like discrimination or unpaid wages, then you should talk to an employment attorney before filing an unemployment benefits claim to make sure your application will not cause problems for your other claims and that you are presenting a strong position why the firing was illegitimate.