Unemployment Insurance Law

Shaun Esposito
Head of Public Services


This guide provides general information regarding the federal and state unemployment law. This not a comprehensive discussion of the area of law. It is not intended to replace the advice of counsel. You are encouraged to seek legal counsel from an attorney who can provide you with legal advice specific to your situation and location.

A joint federal and state scheme of unemployment insurance provides compensation to workers who find themselves temporarily unemployed through no fault of their own. This system of benefits for those who are unemployed but otherwise able and available for work should not be confused with the system of workers' compensation that exists in Arizona and other states to provide compensation for individuals injured on the job.

As in most states, the legislature in Arizona has set out general guidelines for the entitlement to unemployment compensation benefits. See Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) Title 23, Ch. 4. Specific rules for benefit eligibility and the processing of benefit claims are set out in greater detail in the Arizona Administrative Code. See Arizona Administrative Code (AAC) Title 6, Ch. 3. In Arizona, an employee must first make a claim for benefits; the Department of Employment Security then notifies the employer(s) that a claim has been made. ARS §23-772AAC §R6-3-1803. The department then reviews the claim and makes a determination of whether the employee is eligible for unemployment benefits. ARS §23-773AAC §R6-3-1803.

Arizona law provides for a disqualification from benefits for a variety of reasons, including voluntarily quitting work without good cause related to the employment or discharge for wilful or negligent misconduct connected with the employment. ARS §23-775AAC §§R6-3-5005 to R6-3-50515 (voluntarily quitting), AAC §§R6-3-5105 to R6-3-51490 (misconduct). Special sections of the Arizona statutes provides for denial of benefits to certain athletes and aliens. ARS §23-781. For those dissatisfied with the department's initial decision, the law provides for review by an appeal tribunal. ARS §23-671AAC §R6-3-1502 to R6-3-1507.

Benefits are calculated according to a complicated formula which looks to a percentage of a worker's income during a defined "base period" ARS §23-779. In general, benefits may not be assigned or attached for payment of debts, ARS §23-783, with the exception of child support obligations. ARS §23-789. In order to continue to receive benefits, the claimant must remain able and available for work. ARS §23-771AAC §§R6-3-5205 to R6-3-52510. Those otherwise entitled to unemployment compensation may have their benefits reduced if they also receive certain types of pension payments. ARS §23-791AAC §R6-3-1808. If an employee has received unemployment compensation in the past to which the employee was not entitled, the department may withhold current benefits to recoup the overpayment. ARS §23-787AAC §R6-3-1813.

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State and Federal Government Online Resources

Arizona Department of Economic Security Employment Security Administration. This is the main Unemployment Insurance page; it contains items of interest to both employers and employees. Separate pages at the Employment Security Administration site that provide useful information about unemployment insurance include:

U.S. Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance has links to detailed discussions of topics such as a history and background of unemployment insurance law, benefits for ex-military personnel, and extended benefits. Other pages of interest at the US Department of Labor site include:

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Law Library Resources

The Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) (Main Floor, Arizona Collection) and Arizona Administrate Code (AAC) (Law Reserve KFA 2435 A23 1974) are available in print in the Law Library. Although versions of both are available on the web, as noted above, there are some advantages to consulting the printed versions in the Law Library. The printed version of the ARS is annotated with references to relevant cases, law review articles, and legal encyclopedia topics. The printed version of the AAC is the only official source as is stated on the Arizona Secretary of State's website.

The Arizona Digest (Main Floor, Arizona Collection) provides another useful tool for finding cases that have been decided concerning unemployment insurance benefits. Digests provide the primary means for finding case law on a given topic. Digests are arranged alphabetically by topic name. Within each topic special "key numbers" are assigned for each subpart of the topic. Under these key numbers, cases dealing with that subtopic are summarized or "digested", and a citation to the case is given. Cases dealing with Unemployment Insurance are grouped under the digest topic "Unemployment Compensation" (v. 23A of the Arizona Digest).

The Arizona Bar publishes the Arizona Employment Law Handbook which includes a discussion of Arizona's unemployment law in Chapter 9, Article 9.3 (available in print in the law library [Law Reserve and Arizona Reference KFA2731.A6 A7] and on LexisAdvance).

The Law Library also subscribes to CCH IntelliConnect, an online service that contains a specialized looseleaf service, the CCH Unemployment Insurance Reporter. Despite its title, only the half of this deals with unemployment insurance (the first half deals with Social Security). This one source draws together federal and state statutes on unemployment compensation as well as summaries of court and administrative decisions.  To access this service go to the law library’s major databases page and select CCH IntelliConnect, then scroll down to select Unemployment/Social Security.

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