Navigating the Texas unemployment system often proves challenging. Since the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Texas attorneys have lost their jobs or have been laid off temporarily. This guide shows you what to do if you lose your job and helps you ensure the appropriate steps are taken should you lose your job as an Austin attorney, so you can receive the necessary unemployment compensation to which you are entitled.
Notify Texas attorney general
The first step you should take if you lose your job in Austin is to notify the Texas state government. You may need to notify The Texas Office of Attorney General, depending on your situation. This is especially the case if you have child support obligations (see below). You may also need to notify the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) via the Unemployment Benefits Services page.
Were you wrongfully terminated?
You have the right to take action if you were wrongfully discharged. Texas uses the “employment at will” doctrine. This dictates that employers or employees can terminate a work relationship for any reason. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Notably, this includes statutory exceptions (i.e. discriminatory reasons) and law (court-made) exceptions. According to the TWC, the remedy for a wrongful discharge may include work reinstatement, back and future pay, and punitive damages. The employer may also be liable for all legal fees as well. Of course, you are also eligible for worker’s compensation if all requirements are met as well.
What organizations to go to?
It can be a challenge navigating all of the different people you should contact if you lose your job in Texas. The good news is the process is fairly simple. Below are the organizations you may need to contact if you lose your job as an Austin attorney.
- You can apply for unemployment benefits with the Texas Workforce Commission.
- You should contact the Office of The Attorney General with inquiries regarding child support while unemployed.
You may need to contact additional departments based on the specifics of your unemployment. Otherwise, the TWC and Attorney General’s office should be able to guide you through the rest of the process.
Start looking for new job opportunities
Unemployment aid provides important assistance when you need it the most. However, it is most likely less than you would make as an attorney. Subsequently, it is likely in your best interest to start seeking employment. In addition, most people must start looking for new work opportunities once they are receiving unemployment aid (aside from certain exceptions). Each attempt to procure new work opportunities is known as a work search.
If you have child support payments
You may be eligible for a child support payment modification if you lose your job as an Austin attorney (or if your employment status changes for another reason). If you have child support payments, you should contact the Office of The Attorney General and fill out the form as soon as possible. However, only a court order can change the status and amount of your child support payments, so you should continue making payments until you are directly notified of the payment modification due to recent unemployment or a change in job status.
Apply for unemployment benefits in Texas
You should apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you lose your job. However, you cannot apply before your last day of work. There are two ways to apply for unemployment benefits in Texas. There is an option to apply online with Unemployment Benefits Services. You can also call and speak with a Tele-Center representative at 800-939-6631.
When applying, you will need information about your previous employer, the dates you worked for the company, the number of hours and pay rate, and valid Texas identification. You can learn more about applying here.
Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?
Austin attorneys who lose employment (temporarily or permanently) for reasons not related to employee misconduct usually qualify for unemployment benefits in Texas. They are typically funded through employer taxes. The TWC provides an estimator to help you calculate your anticipated benefit amount. This depends on your past wages and is calculated as your weekly benefits amount. All requirements must be met in order to qualify. The requirements include but are not limited to:
- You are unemployed or are working reduced hours through no fault of your own
- You have wages within more than one of the base quarters
- The wages for your total base period are at least 37 times your weekly benefit amount
- You must have earned six times your new weekly benefit amount since your last qualified claim
You are not likely eligible for benefits if you quit your job. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, you likely qualify for unemployment benefits if you quit your job due to medical reasons or to care for someone with an illness. If you were terminated (rather than laid-off), then you may qualify if the reason for the firing is not related to misconduct. There are also ongoing eligibility requirements that must be met to continue receiving unemployment aid.
How do I know what kind of unemployment aid I am receiving?
Most receive the traditional form of employment in Texas, although there are more specific types related to job loss during the COVID pandemic. The Texas Workforce Commission reviews your unemployment aid claim based on your past salary, job separation, and continuing eligibility requirements. The amount you receive most notably depends on your previous wages. However, there are max unemployment payments that may apply if you held a high-income role as an Austin attorney.
What happens when I run out of my benefits?
Regular unemployment lasts for 26 weeks. You are required to report new employment, after which your benefits will likely end (or be reduced in the case you have only part-time employment). If your regular unemployment claim benefits have expired, then you may not qualify for more financial assistance. However, there are extension programs that may be available after the initial 26-week period. It is important to stay in communication with the TWC as the expiration date approaches.
Talk to a Recruiter at the Earliest Signs
If you suspect you may be terminated or laid off soon, it may be advantageous to contact a legal recruiter sooner rather than later. The experienced recruiters at Momentum Search Partners have helped place over 1000 candidates over the 100+ years of combined recruiting experience that our team has accrued. We will use our industry knowledge, large network of connections throughout Texas, and our compassionate and insightful assessment skills to help you land a new role. Contact us today to learn more.