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Department of Labor

Domestic Violence and UI Benefits: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: My job is affected by domestic violence – could I qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits if I have to quit or if I am fired because of the violence?

A: You could qualify for unemployment benefits if you lost your job or if you had to quit or leave your job because of domestic violence.  For example, you may have quit because you thought that staying in your job would threaten your safety or that of a member of your immediate family. 

Members of your immediate family include: 

  • Children
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Brothers
  • Sisters
 

The Department of Labor recognizes that domestic violence occurs in many relationships, such as:

  • Married and formerly married couples
  • Same-sex couples
  • Couples with children in common
  • Couples who live together or have lived together
  • Dating couples who are or were in an intimate relationship
  • Parents and children
  • Siblings
For more, please see our Unemployment Insurance and Domestic Violence factsheet.


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Q: What is domestic violence?

A: Domestic violence is a pattern of threats and/or physical abuse by one person against an intimate partner or other family member to establish and maintain power and control. The abuse can be:

  • Physical
  • Psychological
  • Sexual
  • Economic
  • Emotional
An abuser may:

  • Do things that make you afraid
  • Do things to control you
  • Threaten to hurt you or someone close to you
  • Physically abuse you
To find out more about domestic violence, see the NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence's publication, “Finding Safety and Support.”

To speak to someone about domestic violence, contact the NYS Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-942-6906 (Spanish and TTY also available).  Domestic violence may spill over into the workplace. It can threaten your safety, the safety of a family member, or even your co-workers. You may have been fired or quit your job because your abuser:

  • Followed you to your job
  • Called and harassed or threatened you at work
  • Threatened you about your job or kept you from going to work
  • Made contact with co-workers or your boss
  • Did other things that might make your co-workers or boss find out about the abuse
  • Did other things that might get you fired

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Q: If I qualify, what benefits could I receive?

A: Unemployment Insurance is temporary income for eligible workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  If you qualify, you can receive benefits of up to $504 per week, depending on how much you earned in the 18 months before you filed your claim. You can usually collect benefits for up to 26 weeks. 

For more information about how your benefit rate is calculated, please see the Claimant Handbook or "How is my weekly benefit rate determined?"

 


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Q: How do I qualify for benefits?

A: To qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits, you must meet these requirements:

  1. Job loss: You must have lost your job or quit your job because of domestic violence. We may ask you to provide verbal or written proof that continuing to work would threaten your safety or that of a member of your immediate family. To find out more about this proof, go to "What kind of documentation might I need?"

    You may also have a claim for employment discrimination if your employer fired you because you were a victim or survivor of domestic violence.  To find out more, go to "What can I do if I have been discriminated against by my employer because I am a victim of domestic violence?"

  2. Earnings: You must have earned enough wages during your base period of employment before you filed your claim. The base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the calendar quarter in which your claim begins. To help you figure out your base period, see our fact sheet, "How Your Weekly Unemployment Insurance Benefit is Calculated". This information is also available in the Claimant Handbook.

  3. Work Readiness: You must be ready, willing, and able to work while you receive benefits. You must also actively look for work you can do while you claim benefits. We will ask you to document your work search efforts. If you are not available to work or physically or mentally capable of work because of the domestic violence, you may not qualify for benefits until you show us that you are again able to work and are trying to find a job.*

    * If you became disabled because of the domestic violence, you may consider filing a claim for disability.

    * If you cannot work due to domestic violence, you may qualify for public assistance. For more information, visit the NYS Office for Temporary and Disability Assistance website.


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Q: How do I apply for benefits?

A: See How to File a Claim for instructions. You should file your claim in the first week that you have become unemployed. This is important because your first week is an unpaid week, called a "waiting week." 

  • Services for non-English speakers: We offer help in Spanish and other languages. We also offer interpretation services. Call 1-888-209-8124 and follow the instructions on the phone system. Call during the hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 8 am to 7:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 7:30 am to 8:00 pm.
  • If you are hearing impaired and another person is helping you: call the Telephone Claims Center at (888) 783-1370.  If you use Telephone Device for the Deaf (TTY/TDD) equipment, first call the relay operator at (800) 662-1220 and ask the operator to call the Telephone Claims Center at (888) 783-1370.

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Q: What information do I need to file my claim?

A: See How to File a Claim for instructions.


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Q: What happens after I apply?

A: When we get your claim for Unemployment Insurance and see that you lost or left your job because of domestic violence, we may need more information to make a decision.  A representative will contact you to interview you about your last job and your separation from work.  This may be by phone or by secure messaging.  When you use our NY.gov online services to file your claim, we may contact you through the NY.gov secure message system.  Make sure you check and respond to any messages or questionnaires we may send.

The representative will also ask your employer for information before we make a decision.


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Q: What will the interviewer ask?

A: The claims representative will ask you questions about your claim and the domestic violence.  If you lost your job, we will ask you why you think your employer fired you because of the domestic violence.  If you quit your job because the domestic violence made you afraid for your safety or the safety of a family member (parent, spouse or domestic partner, child, grandparent, brother or sister), we will ask you questions about that.  We will ask why you were afraid and why you felt you had to quit your job to stay safe.  

Questions we may ask questions about your job include:

  • Where you worked
  • Who else worked there
  • Was the employer aware of the domestic violence
  • Did your co-workers know about the violence
  • Were you threatened or harassed at work, etc.
We may also ask if you attempted to keep your job.  If the employer told you that you might lose your job, did you try to perform better? Did you try to manage absences or lateness? Did you ask your employer if you could transfer to another location?  

 

We may also ask questions about the domestic violence:

  • Where did it occur
  • How many times
  • When did the most recent incident happen
  • Are you are separated from the abuser, etc.
If you quit your job to relocate to get away from the abuser, the examiner may ask:

  • If you have family in the area
  • Whether you used to live with the abuser
  • Where you plan to live
  • Whether the police or advocate told you to move

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Q: How can I prepare for the interview?

A: You should be prepared to explain exactly how the domestic violence relates to:

  • being fired
    OR
  • quitting your job   
Did your employer fire you when you asked for time off to go to court because of the domestic violence? Did you lose your job because your employer felt you weren’t doing your job well anymore?  Were you late to or absent from work due to the abuse?  Did you quit because your abuser harassed you at work? Did you quit because you were afraid for your safety? Did you quit because you felt you had to move when the abuser threatened to hurt your children? You should tell us this level of detail specific to your case.


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Q: Do I need proof of the domestic violence?

A: The law requires you to provide “reasonable and confidential documentation” of the violence.   Sometimes, we can accept your statement in your Unemployment Insurance claim that you lost or left your job because of domestic violence. The spoken details you give in your interview may be enough.  Other times, we may have to ask you for written documentation as evidence of the domestic violence, and you should be prepared to send copies.
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Q: What kind of documents may I need?

A: If you called the police about the domestic violence, you can send us a copy of:

  • The Domestic Incident Report
  • Police report
  • Arrest report   
If you a have an order of protection, you should send us a copy.  If the abuse was prosecuted, but did not result in an order of protection, ask the prosecutor to write a letter for you.  If you did not call the police or get an order of protection, or you do not have a copy of these things, be prepared to explain why.  

You can provide other forms of evidence.  Because of the violence or injuries, did you or a family member ever:

  • Go to the hospital
  • See a doctor
  • Visit a counselor, social worker, or domestic violence advocate
If you did, you can send notes or a letter from any of these people about the violence. 

You may use a letter from a lawyer or a religious leader explaining that you asked them for help in dealing with the violence as evidence for the interview.  You may send a letter from your former employer or a co-worker, or any other records or proof to support your claim.  By law, we keep this documentation confidential.   

If you did not call the police or a domestic violence program for assistance, or you did not get an order of protection, you may still be able to qualify for benefits under this provision.


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Q: What will happen if I have no documentation about the domestic violence?

A: You may be eligible to receive benefits even if you have nothing written about the violence – a police report, order of protection, doctor’s note, advocate’s letter.  Just be prepared to explain to our representative why you do not have any of those things. 
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Q: What happens after the interview?

A: We will review the details and documents both you and your employer provide, and decide to grant or deny you benefits.  If we approve your claim, you should receive your first benefit payment three to six weeks from when you filed your claim.  Then you will get Unemployment Insurance benefits weekly, as long as you continue to:

  • meet the requirements 
  • call in or sign in online to claim weekly payments
If we deny your claim, you will receive a “Notice of Determination of Ineligibility or Disqualification” in the mail telling you why.  The notice will also explain:

  • How long the period of denial lasts
  • How you can requalify
  • How to ask for a hearing  if you disagree with the decision

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Q: What can I do if you do not approve my claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits?

A: If you disagree with any determination that denies you benefits or affects the amount of benefits you can receive, you have the right to request a hearing. Learn more about the Department of Labor's hearing process and where you can go for legal assistance.


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Q: Can I get legal help or other representation to help me get benefits, challenge the amount of weekly benefits, or appeal a denial?

A: The Department of Labor maintains a listing of legal services organizations, private attorneys, and registered representatives that can help you with an appeal of your Unemployment Insurance claim. Some of these providers charge a fee and some are free (if you qualify). The Appeal Board does not endorse, recommend or guarantee the work of any person or organization on the list. Please visit the UI Appeal Board Guides and Resources page and select "List of Attorneys and Authorized Representatives."


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Q: What if I must move due to safety concerns (related to domestic violence) while I collect Unemployment Insurance benefits?

A: Victims and survivors of domestic violence often need to move for safety reasons.  If you have to leave your local job market, you should tell the Telephone Claims Center before you move. Call 888-209-8124. They will tell you if you can continue to collect Unemployment Insurance benefits during a temporary or permanent relocation.  If you do not tell the Telephone Claims Center, you could lose your benefits.  
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Q: What can I do if my employer discriminated against me because I am a victim of domestic violence?

A: You can file a discrimination claim with the New York State Division of Human Rights if you believe you were:

Fired because your employer learned that:  

  • you are a domestic violence victim or survivor,
  • you have an order of protection, or
  • your abuser is coming to your workplace.
If your abuser violates the order of protection or becomes abusive at your workplace, the employer should call the police as they would for any other misconduct in the workplace.)

Discriminated against or treated any differently in any aspect of your employment because you are a victim or survivor of domestic violence. If you ask for time off to go to court, to move, or to seek help due to domestic violence and your employer typically allows employees to take time off for personal needs and family emergencies, then they should not deny your request.

Denied needed time off for medical or mental health services. Unless time off causes a significant hardship to your employer, they must grant you reasonable time off and may not terminate you. Your employer may request a note from the medical or mental health service provider (as long as the employer requires ALL employees to provide a note in similar situations that are unrelated to domestic violence).

* It is illegal for an employer to take action against an employee who is a crime victim for taking time off to appear in court as a witness, to consult with a district attorney, or to get an order of protection (NY Penal Law § 215.14). This specific right is not enforced by the Division of Human Rights. However, it would be discriminatory under the Human Rights Law to treat a victim or survivor of domestic violence any differently than employees who need time off for other reasons. 

* If you live in NYC or Westchester County, there is a local law that provides more protection.  It requires your employer to provide reasonable accommodations under certain circumstances.  For details, go to: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/in-the-workplace.page.


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Q: What could happen if I file a claim with the Division of Human Rights?

A: You do not need to hire an attorney to file a claim.  If your claim is successful, you may be entitled to financial reimbursement.  If you have lost your job because of discrimination, you may get your job back.

(It is against the law for an employer to take any action in retaliation against an employee who files a discrimination complaint.)


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Q: How do I file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights (DHR)?

A: For more information about how to file a complaint, see the Division’s website at www.dhr.ny.gov .

*The New York State Human Rights Law covers employers with four or more employees. You must file a complaint with the Division within one year of the alleged discriminatory act. The law protects domestic violence victims and survivors against employment actions taken on or after July 7, 2009.


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Q: What options do I have to increase safety at work?

A: Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

Order of protection:

Request an order of protection through a Family or Criminal Court. On your petition form, ask for a provision that orders your abuser to stay away from your workplace and to prevent contact there.

If your employer is aware that you are a domestic violence victim or survivor, tell them about the order of protection and ask them to help enforce the order. They could provide information about any violation of the order that occurs at work.

Workplace safety plan:

There are steps that you can take to increase your safety. In some cases, you will need to tell your boss about your situation to ask for the changes you need. Because situations differ, it may help to speak with a domestic violence advocate who can help you develop an individual safety plan.

Actions you can take to increase your safety at work:

  • Keep a photo of the abuser and/or a copy of any order of protection in a safe place at work
  • Tell co-workers you trust about your situation
  • Arrange with security or the front desk to ensure your abuser cannot come into your place of work
  • Give copies of your order of protection to security personnel
  • Write up an emergency security response plan, including steps to contact the police
  • Ask for changes that may decrease risk:
  • Temporarily or permanently move to a different desk, secure area or new work site
  • Change your work schedule or shift (vary work hours)
  • Keep your work address or phone number private
  • Keep your home address or phone number private
  • Change your phone number or extension, or route calls through a receptionist
  • Make a plan to deal with phone, fax, e-mail or mail harassment
  • Change your parking space
  • Have an escort when you enter or leave the building
When you work for the same employer as your abuser:

Safety plans must address further concerns if you and your abuser work for the same employer. For example, your employer must assure that your abuser cannot access personnel data. The company may tell the abuser that there will be consequences for any harassment, abuse, etc., at work. This could include disciplinary action or termination, where appropriate.

New York City laws:

There are laws to protect survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking who work in New York City. The law says that your boss must make changes at work so that you can do your job and stay safe. This is called a “reasonable accommodation.”

For details on the NYC law, go to: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/in-the-workplace.page.


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Q: Should I tell my employer?

A: This depends on your situation.  Do you think your employer can make changes or offer help that would help you feel safer or do better at work?  You are not required to tell your employer that you are a domestic violence victim or survivor.  However, you may need to tell your employer  in order to get changes made to increase your safety at work.  Also, it is harder to prove discrimination if you have not told your employer that you are a victim or survivor.  That makes it hard to determine how and when your employer found out about the violence.
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Q: What are some advantages of telling my employer?

A: When you tell your employer, it allows you to ask for help and accommodations at your worksite.  This may help keep the workplace safer for you and your co-workers.  It may help you continue to work at your job. 

Telling might also help explain any performance problems related to the violence or stalking.


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Q: What are some disadvantages to telling my employer?

A: Your employer might pressure you to leave your abuser or to get a protective order.  This may not be the right step for you at this moment.  

Your employer might fire you just because you are a victim or survivor of domestic violence. That would be against the law, but enforcing the law may be difficult or take a long time. Keeping a steady paycheck might be more important for your present and future stability.  

Telling might make the situation more public, which may be uncomfortable for you or may affect your safety.    


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Q: How do I decide whether to tell my employer?

A: There is no way to predict how an employer will react.  When an employer has a policy for employees who are victims or survivors of domestic violence, this tells you: 

  • Procedures to follow 
  • Protections offered to you
Consider how much support you can expect from your employer.  Review any workplace policies against:

  • Violence
  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
This might tell you how they will respond.  Another hint may be how flexible your employer usually is about work or personnel issues.     

If there is someone you can talk to who has the power to help you, approach this person for support before you decide.


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Q: Who might be able to help me at work?

A: Decide how comfortable you are with disclosing the domestic violence.  If you can talk about it, you may have resources at work to support and help. Some of these resource people may be required to keep your information confidential.  Clarify this before discussing your situation with:

  • Human resources/personnel staff
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) staff
  • Your bargaining representative/union
NYC employees:

To ask for a reasonable accommodation, you must disclose that you are a victim or survivor. The NYC law requires employers to keep this information strictly confidential.  For more information, go to: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/law/in-the-workplace.page.


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Q: What other resources are available to help?

A: Domestic violence service providers: If you experienced abuse from an intimate partner, please call the 24-Hour NYS Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline. The hotline provides:

  • Crisis intervention
  • Counseling
  • Referrals to local domestic violence service providers
Call: 800-942-6906 

You may also view the NYS Coalition Against Domestic Violence Program Directory to find an approved domestic violence program in your county. 

Other sources of information on domestic violence and the workplace include:

NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence
518-457-5800
http://www.opdv.ny.gov/

NYS Division of Human Rights 
718-741-8400
https://dhr.ny.gov 

New York City commission on Human Rights
718-722-3131
www1.nyc.gov/site/cchr/index.page

 


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