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I was recently laid off from my job as a software developer at startup in California because the startup no longer had funding to pay myself and most other employees. I've managed to find and accept an offer at another company but wont be paid until the 15th of next month. I will be unable to pay my bills until then because I have no savings.

I attempted to negotiate a signing bonus but was told it wouldn't kick in until 90 days after so it was irrelevant. However the recruiter told me I could file for unemployment benefits for the 5-6 weeks I was unemployed. Is that something I can do, and what are the repercussions of doing so?

  • As for something you can do, unfortunately I could not see anything in California's eligibility that says one way or another. So I strongly recommend contacting them for that part of your question. – Anketam Jun 20 '16 at 20:22
  • Well worth checking out to see if there is anything you do qualify for but given that you are dealing with the government, I don't think you will see that money before the 15th either. – Myles Jun 20 '16 at 20:35
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    Uh, you are technically unemployed. – paparazzo Jun 20 '16 at 20:52
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    Usually there is a waiting week and then benefits are paid every week you are unemployed after that. You do not get back pay for weeks you were unemployed but did not file for benefits. Benefits can only be filed for the current active period(usually the 2 weeks prior). These are the federal rules for Unemployement. It is possible your state has other rules in addition to or that supplant, but every state I have ever known followed the Federal requirements. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 20 '16 at 22:08
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    "I've managed to find and accept an offer at another company but wont be paid until the 15th of next month." - when do you actually start working there? – WorkerDrone Jun 21 '16 at 12:43
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There are no professional repercussions of filing for unemployment because that's not something an employer would know about. There is a gap in employment regardless, but nobody should ask (it might not be legal to ask) or care if you're getting government benefits during that time.

Also, from your description you were not "Fired". You were "laid off" or "downsized". "Fired" implies cause, the others do not. I suggest changing the language so you don't accidentally convey the wrong thing to a future employer or others.

  • The OP was fired. Fired just means terminated, we often attribute a negative connotation to it that should not be there. Its not a lay off in that they have no expectation of being called back to work. The reason for firing was the company was reducing costs. There is no connotation of good or bad work there. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 21 '16 at 14:02
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    @Chad but there is good & bad connotation with it - whether there should or shouldn't be. And "fired" does imply cause to most everyone, so I would think using language like "layoff", "downsized", "reduction in force", "budget cut & position eliminated", etc would be a good idea. – Raystafarian Jun 21 '16 at 16:45
  • @Raystafarian Its all the same thing. Honestly I am the type that prefers blunt honesty over the posturing that those words you proposed indicate. Honestly when i see words like that it leads me to believe you are trying to hide the real reason you were let go. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jun 21 '16 at 17:04
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    It may be technically the same thing, but it's about what your hearers will understand. If you say "fired" people will assume you did something wrong. If you say "laid off" they will assume something else. – DJClayworth Jun 21 '16 at 19:09
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Unless you are fired with cause, i.e., because of something wrong you did, you can apply and qualify for the unemployment. Alas, with the sad state of CA state government workers, probably the unemployment payments will not kick in until you see your first paycheck. The office which handles unemployment cases is awfully slow, then they need to conduct an interview with you and with your past employer. If they don't respond, they have to wait so many days etc. You see where I am going.

But by all means apply for it. It will be a bonus when you get it. Don't forget to report every week that you are looking for work and at least send resumes out and record the company names. You need to send them out to the office or enter them somehow to the system using online or phone system. Also, don't forget to report on the first day of your work to stop unemployment payments. Not doing so, is considered fraud and you don't want to find yourself there.

Reach out to your landlord and other people you need to pay before your first paycheck arrives and explain them your situation and tell them that you will pay every red cent you owe them once you get paid and pay the administered late fees and interest if that is the case. Most people are more understanding when you give them a heads up than not finding the payment in their mailboxes on its due date. And take this as a learning opportunity to accumulate a rainy day fund to tide you over at least 2-3 months. You were lucky to get a job immediately. Next time you might not be that lucky. Take it from someone who got laid off under the same circumstances as you, 10 days before 9/11 attacks happened. 6 months of unemployment is nothing to balk at.

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I'm not in California, so your mileage may vary, but here in Michigan, you can file a claim the first day you're unemployed (assuming you were not terminated for cause) and you will receive benefits on schedule. There is NO "waiting period". The catch is that if you are later found to be ineligible, you will have to repay the money you received. If you are found to have intentionally filed a false claim, there are penalties and possible charges. I do know that you cannot file a retroactive claim.

As others have pointed out, the term "fired" usually means terminating for cause. Becoming unemployed because your company couldn't afford to pay you is being "laid off" or "downsized".

Also, receiving unemployment benefits comes with requirements to actively seek employment and to accept any job offer that you get.

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It's been over 20 years since I needed unemployment benefits. When my employer let me go, I didn't file right away, as I knew I wouldn't receive benefits immediately (and had other matters to attend to). As I noted in a comment above, the state I was in at the time wouldn't pay benefits until the time had elapsed for severance and vacation pay, if any. In my case I received two weeks of severance pay and had about the same amount of vacation accumulated, so one month passed before I received the benefits. However, it was only about two weeks from the time I filed until I was eligible to receive benefits, and the benefits started right on time.

That said, I've never lived in California, so I don't know how long the process takes there.

One other thing to keep in mind: Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income; however - at least when and where I received them - no taxes were withheld from the payments I received. At tax time, this can have a substantial effect if you receive unemployment for a few months.

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