Massachusetts law about unemployment

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on unemployment law.

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Table of Contents

Best bet

Has the DUA asked you to return money they paid you?, MassLegalHelp, 2020.
If the DUA says that you were overpaid, you can challenge DUA's decision, or the amount of the overpayment. Even if you agree that you were overpaid, you may not have to pay it back if you meet certain conditions.

How to appeal your unemployment benefits denial to the court, Mass. Legal Services.
Explains how to appeal a final decision of the Board of Review. Appendix M includes a sample complaint for judicial review.

What to do if you’ve become unemployed in Massachusetts, Mass. Dept. of Unemployment Assistance.
Explains what you need to do and when, including information about special COVID programs.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.151A Employment and training

MGL c. 149, § 52C Personnel records; review by employee; corrections; penalty
Access to employee personnel file for unemployment insurance purposes. Often the documents of most value are the employee’s attendance records, evaluations and warnings and other records, of disciplinary action or of any reasons the employer has given for termination.

MGL c.152, § 36B Effect on worker's compensation eligibility

Massachusetts regulations

430 CMR Department of Employment and Training

801 CMR 1 Adjudicatory rules of practice and procedure

Note: Unemployment compensation is included as a source of income in the Child support guidelines.

Federal laws

26 USC §§ 3301 et seq. Federal unemployment tax act

42 USC § 503 Requirements for state unemployment laws

Federal regulations

20 CFR 640 Promptness standard for benefit payment

20 CFR 650 Promptness standard for benefit appeals

45 CFR 302.65 Withholding of unemployment compensation for child support

Selected case law

Cape Cod Collaborative v. Director of the Department of Unemployment  Insurance, 91 Mass. App.Ct. 436 (2017)
Excellent summary of the principles of judicial review that apply to unemployment insurance cases.

Crane v. Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Training, 414 Mass. 658 (1993)
Employee bears burden of proof that he left for good cause attributable to employer.

DiGiulio v. Director of Dept. of Unemployment Assistance, 94 Mass. App. Ct. 292 (2018)
Under MGL c. 151A, § 25 (e), a claimant is not eligible to collect unemployment where their reason for leaving their job was to accompany a spouse who had been relocated.

New England Wooden Ware Corp. v. Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Training, 61 Mass. App Ct. 532 (2004)
Even though the employee violated the employer's policy designed to curb absenteeism, the policy was not uniformly enforced and he was therefore entitled to unemployment benefits. 

Still v. Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Training, 423 Mass. 805 (1996)
Includes discussion of the term "knowing violation" of an employer's rule or policy, as appearing in G. L. c. 1.51, s. 25(e)(2), which can provide the basis for the denial of unemployment benefits to a discharged employee. 

Torres v. Director of the Division of Employment Security, 387 Mass. 776 (1982)
“The Unemployment Insurance statute presumes eligibility unless the circumstances of a worker’s separation from employment fall within a particular statutory disqualification.”

Tri-County Youth Programs, Inc. v. Acting Deputy Director of the Division of Employment and Training, 54 Mass. App. Ct. 405 (2002)
Discrimination and sexual harassment. The Appeals Court held that (1) the “claimant resigned for good cause due to sexual harassment, and (2) fact that claimant's sexual assault was a foreseeable risk of her job at residential facility for emotionally troubled youth did not preclude claimant from receiving unemployment benefits after she resigned, alleging sexual harassment.”

Web sources

Apply for unemployment benefits, Mass. Dept. of Unemployment Assistance.
You should apply for unemployment benefits during your first week of total or partial unemployment. Most claims are processed within 21-28 days after filing. It may take longer if there is an issue with your claim.

Board of Review decisions, Mass. Board of Review.
The Board decides unemployment appeals from hearings conducted by the Department of Unemployment Assistance. Site provides selected opinions only. "The Board of Review decisions available on this website have been selected for posting because, in the Board’s opinion, they contain significant issues, create new precedent, or may provide useful guidance to parties and their representatives."

DUA adjudication handbook, 2020 ed. Mass. Legal Services.
Online version of book covers eligibility and determinations in great detail.

Employer responsibilities during the unemployment claims process, Mass. Dept. of Unemployment Assistance.
When an employee is separated from work, there are several steps the employer and employee must participate in to ensure that eligibility is determined accurately. As an employer, learn about what you can do to promote an effective claims process.

A guide to benefits and employment services for claimants, Mass. Dept. of Workforce Development, January 2018.
Includes an overview of your rights and responsibilities, help in finding a job, how benefits are determined, contact information and more.

Learn about tax treatment of unemployment compensation, Mass. Dept. of Revenue.
Find out how unemployment compensation is treated for tax purposes in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts JobQuest, Exec. Office of Workforce Development.
A free online service of the state to help you search for and find a job.

The need to leave work: your rights as a domestic violence survivor, MassLegalHelp, May 2022.
Brief analysis of unemployment eligibility when domestic violence forces you to leave your job.

Report unemployment benefits fraud, Mass. Dept. of Unemployment Assistance.
If you believe someone is using your identity to falsely claim unemployment benefits, learn how to report the fraud and what to do to protect yourself.

Unemployment advocacy guide, Mass. Law Reform Institute, 2022.
Online version of the well-respected book, covers eligibility, receiving benefits, the appeals process, sample forms and more. Free downloadable PDF version of this book is available as well as a free ebook.

Unemployment insurance for employers, Mass. Dept. of Unemployment Assistance.
Explains requirements, information and responsibilities for employers.

Print sources

“1st look” at handling COVID-19 related leaves, layoffs and unemployment, MCLE, 2020.

ABA consumer guide to employee rights: understanding and asserting your rights on the job by Randy Freking, ABA, 2015.

Employment law, 3rd ed. (Mass Practice v. 45) West Group with supplement. Sections 17.11 – 17.19.

Labor and employment in Massachusetts, by Jeffrey Hirsch, 2nd ed., Lexis Law Publishing, loose-leaf. Chapter 19.

Massachusetts employment Law, 5th ed., , MCLE, 2020. Vol. 2, chapter 33.

What to do about personnel problems in Massachusetts, Business and Legal Reports, loose-leaf, under heading "unemployment compensation."

Your rights in the workplace by Sachi Barreiro, Nolo, 2018.

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Last updated: November 1, 2022
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