Unemployment Basics

The laws outlining unemployment compensation in Washington State are found in Title 50 RCW – Unemployment Compensation and Title 192 WAC – Employment Security Department.

Unemployment compensation is an employee benefit system. Benefits are available to an unemployed (or underemployed) person unless the person is disqualified. The burden of proof is on the employer.

Unemployment benefits partially replace regular earnings to help meet expenses while an unemployed person is looking for another job. These benefits are not based on financial need. The weekly benefit amount is 3.85% of the average of the two highest paying quarters of earnings in the employee’s base year (with a minimum and maximum amount).

When an unemployed or underemployed person (a substitute or an employee whose hours/days have been reduced) files for unemployment benefits, a determination of eligibility for benefits is made by a State of Washington (or another state) Employment Security Department adjudicator.

To qualify, the person must: have 680 hours of covered employment (with wages in Washington State) in his/her base year, and be legally authorized to work in the U.S., and be unemployed through no fault of his/her own, and be able, available and actively seeking work.

Persons who wish to file an unemployment claim may do so online on the Employment Security Department website  – choose “Apply for Unemployment Benefits” (this requires the user to create an account). The “Handbook-for-Unemployed-Workers” can also be found on this website.

After a claim is initiated, the Employment Security Department adjudicator seeks information from the claimant.

The employer is also contacted to provide information about the job separation, typically with the “Request for Separation Information” and the “School Employer Questionnaire” forms.

As a member of the Southwest Washington Unemployment Compensation Insurance Pool (Unemployment Pool), ESD 112 will complete these Employer Response forms for your district, and will contact you for any needed information. Lisa Alexander, Claims Specialist, is the main point of contact for completing these forms. Although these documents are usually sent directly to ESD 112, some do go to the district. Please send them to ESD 112 Insurance Programs as soon as you get them.

Once the adjudicator has gathered information, a determination of eligibility is made and a Determination Notice is sent by the Employment Security Department to the claimant and his/her current or last employer.  Sometimes more than one Determination Notice is sent because there are several eligibility issues to decide (e.g. reasonable assurance, voluntary quit, or availability).

If either the claimant or the employer disagrees with the eligibility determination, an appeal may be filed, and the ESD or district will receive a “Notice: Appeal Filed” form.  A hearing will be scheduled before an Administrative Law Judge with the State of Washington, Office of Administrative Hearings.  As a member of the Unemployment Pool, we will represent your district at the hearing, and will contact you for information and/or prepare district witnesses to testify if needed.  The Administrative Law Judge will issue an “Initial Order” that affirms, modifies or sets aside Employment Security Department’s eligibility determination.

How to Make a Claim

The claimant employee submits his/her claim to the State of Washington Employment Security Department, who in turn contacts the Pool to respond to the claim on behalf of the employer Pool member district. The Pool reimburses the State of Washington for the unemployment claims paid against the member district’s account.

Please send us those unemployment forms – ASAP!

If you receive any of these unemployment documents from the WA Employment Security Department (or Oregon Employment Department), please promptly forward them to Insurance Programs:

  • Request for Separation Information
  • School Employer Questionnaire
  • Part Time Verification
  • Employer Wage Verification
  • Determination Letter
  • WA State Office of Administrative Hearings, Notice of Hearing

All these documents have critical due dates.