Employees and Unemployment

How We Help > Resources > COVID-19/Coronavirus > Employees and Unemployment

DISCLAIMER: The information provided by Legal Aid of Nebraska is for informational purposes only. You should not rely solely upon this information in regard to you and your unique circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney regarding the laws and your rights. As the COVID-19 public health situation changes and evolves, different branches of our government will continue to issue new laws and regulations. While Legal Aid of Nebraska strives to keep the information on this page up to date, the information provided here may change on a day-to-day basis.

SPANISH:
Preguntas Frecuentes de Empleados
Discriminación en el Empleo
Beneficios por Desempleo

Quick Links

Click on one of the options below to jump to that section:
$

Unemployment Benefits

Click to jump to this section.

$

Paid Sick and Emergency Leave

Click to jump to this section.

$

Employee FAQs

Click to jump to this section.

$

Employee Discrimination

Click to jump to this section.

Unemployment Benefits

If you are denied unemployment insurance benefits, you can apply for legal help by contacting Legal Aid of Nebraska by calling our COVID-19 Legal Assistance Hotline at 1-844-268-5627.

I am not sure if I qualify for unemployment, what should I do?

If you are not sure if you qualify for unemployment, if you have not qualified for unemployment in the past or if you have used up all your weeks of coverage, you should APPLY FOR UNEMPLOYMENT. There have been changes in unemployment laws.  You may now be eligible.  Apply for unemployment benefits at this link.  

I have lost my job, been laid off, had my hours reduced, or need to miss work due to COVID-19 related issues, can I apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits. File for unemployment insurance benefits online at https://neworks.nebraska.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx.

You may be entitled to receive unemployment benefits if you:

  • Lost your job
  • Have been laid off
  • Had your hours reduced
  • Are in unpaid status due to your work being shut down
  • Are in quarantine
  • Are sick and need to miss work
  • Are caring for a family member who is ill
  • Are caring for a family member due to a facility closure (e.g. school closure, daycare closure)
  • Also applies to those who are self-employed, independent contractors, part-time workers, gig-workers (e.g. Uber or Lyft driver), and those with short-work histories
I do not have a long work history, can I apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits under a new federal act, called the CARES Act (see information about the CARES Act programs below). File for unemployment insurance benefits online at https://neworks.nebraska.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx.

I am self-employed, an independent contractor, a part-time work or a gig worker (e.g. driver for Uber), can I apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits under a new federal act, called the CARES Act (see information about the CARES Act programs below). File for unemployment insurance benefits online at https://neworks.nebraska.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx.

I heard under federal law I can get an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, is this true?

Yes. If you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits, including under the new federal CARES Act (see more information about the CARES Act programs below), you are eligible to receive an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits from the week of March 29, 2020 through July 31, 2020.

I was receiving unemployment benefits, but I have run out of benefits (exhausted my benefits), can I still apply for unemployment benefits?

Yes. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits under a new federal act, called the CARES Act (see information about the CARES Act programs below). File for unemployment insurance benefits online at https://neworks.nebraska.gov/vosnet/Default.aspx.

How do I file for unemployment insurance benefits?

File for unemployment benefits as soon as your job ends, your hours are reduced, you have to miss work for a COVID-19 related reason, including caring for a family member or child whose school or daycare is closed.     

  • Unemployment claims in Nebraska are filed online at nebraska.gov
  • Step by step instructions to apply for unemployment insurance found at: https://www.dol.nebraska.gov/webdocs/getfile/d9c15f48-1d09-4f82-9839-1ceaaa388159
  • The Nebraska Unemployment Benefit call center phone number is (402) 458-2500. However, the Nebraska Department of Labor is recommending individuals do as much as possible online.
  • Local Job Centers may have limited computers and limited staff to assist you in applying for unemployment benefits. Local Job Center contact information can be found at this link: https://www.dol.nebraska.gov/Home/AboutUs
  • After filing a new initial claim, applicants must certify their eligibility every week that they continue to be unemployed by logging into their NEworks account.  These weekly certifications must be completed even while a new claim is still being processed. 
  • Any worker in a non-paid status due to COVID-19 may file a claim for unemployment insurance benefits.
Do I have to search for work to receive unemployment benefits?

No. The state of Nebraska has waived the work search requirement from March 22 – August 1, 2020. See the Governor’s Executive Order at this link. You can search for work if you choose.

Do I have to wait a week after being found eligible to receive unemployment benefits?

No.  Under the Governor’s Executive Order, from March 22- August 1, 2020, the normal one week waiting period for state benefits is waived. If you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits under the new CARES Act programs, the one week waiting period is waived. Due to the large volume of unemployment applications, there is a delay is payments. You will receive the amount you are entitled to, but it may take 3-4 weeks to receive your first payment.  

I am receiving or eligible to receive unemployment benefits in Nebraska, I heard I can get $600 more each week, is this true?

Yes. The Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) program under the federal CARES Act provides an additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits.

How long will the extra $600 weekly benefit last under PUC?

You can get the extra $600 payment if you are eligible for benefits the week ending April 4, 2020 through July 31, 2020. 

Who can get $600 more a week in unemployment benefits under PUC?

You are eligible to receive an additional $600 a week if:

  • You receive regular unemployment benefits from the state of Nebraska; or
  • You receive partial unemployment benefits from the state of Nebraska; or
  • You receive benefits under the new Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensations program and the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (see below for more information about these programs); or
  • You receive Extended Benefits; or
  • You receive benefits under the Short-Time Compensation program; or
  • You receive Disaster Unemployment Insurance; or
  • You receive payments under the Self-Employment Assistance Program
How will the $600 a week additional benefits be paid?

It is paid separate from your regular unemployment payment in Nebraska.

Is the $600 a week additional benefit under PUC counted as income for Medicaid?

No. This benefit will not be counted as income for purposes of Medicaid eligibility or eligibility under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Is the Nebraska Department of Labor now sending the $600 weekly PUC benefit?

The Nebraska Department of Labor has announced they are sending the $600 a week PUC payment, see this link. The $600 is paid separately from regular unemployment insurance benefits.   

Do I need to apply separately for PUC?

The Nebraska Department of Labor has indicated no separate application is needed for PUC. See this link

Apply for unemployment insurance benefits at this link.

The Nebraska Department of Labor has frequently asked questions for employees at this link.

The United States Department of Labor has information at this link, including a news release at this link.

I do not qualify or have not in the past qualified for regular unemployment benefits, is there a way to get benefits now?

Yes, if you do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits, you may qualify now if you are unable to continue working as a result of COVID-19.  Under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA), the government is now providing unemployment benefits to workers who are:

  • Self-employed
  • Independent contractors
  • Freelancers
  • Part-time workers
  • Gig workers (including drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft)
  • Workers with short work histories
How do I qualify for PUA?

You must not be eligible for regular unemployment benefits, extended unemployment benefits, or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (or you have exhausted all rights to such benefits)

AND

You must self-certify you are partly or totally unemployed or not able to work because of one of the following COVID-19 related reasons:

  1. You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking diagnosis;
  2. A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  3. You are caring for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;
  4. You are caring for a child or other household member that can’t attend school or work because it’s closed due to COVID-19;
  5. You were supposed to start a job, but could not start your job because of COVID-19;
  6. Your primary breadwinner died as a direct result of COVID-19;
  7. You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  8. Your work place closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  9. You meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.
If my employer will let me telework with pay, am I eligible for PUA?

No.

If I am receiving paid sick days or other paid leave, am I eligible for PUA?

No.

I am not authorized to work in the US, am I eligible for PUA?

No, if you are not eligible to work in the US, or are undocumented, you are not eligible for PUA.

When are PUA benefits available?

Benefits are retroactive beginning on January 27, 2020 and will last through December 31, 2020.

How many weeks of PUA benefits can I receive?

Under PUA, you can receive up to 39 weeks including all regular unemployment insurance benefits and extended benefits under any federal or state law, unless additional extended benefits are added later.

How much will the weekly benefit be?

PUA will be the amount of your unemployment insurance benefit, but will have a minimum benefit that is equal to one-half the state’s average weekly unemployment insurance benefits – about $190 a week. You will also be eligible for the $600 a week Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) benefit payment. The extra $600 a week payment under the PUC program will last through July 31, 2020.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits, including PUA?

The Nebraska Department of Labor has said every unemployment claim is automatically reviewed for PUA eligibility and that further details regarding PUA will be announced soon. See this link.

Apply for unemployment insurance benefits at this link.

The Nebraska Department of Labor has frequently asked questions for employees at this link.

The United States Department of Labor has information at this link, including a news release at this link.

I will exhaust or have exhausted my state unemployment benefits, can my unemployment benefits be extended?

Yes. you can get 13 more weeks of unemployment benefits under the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program under the federal CARES Act, if:

  • You have exhausted all rights to unemployment benefits under Nebraska or federal law: and
  • You are able to work, available to work, and actively searching for work. However, states need to be flexible in the requirement that workers be able and available for work, if you are unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because you are sick, quarantined or subject to restrictions on movement. The state of Nebraska has waived the work search requirement from March 22 – August 1, 2020. See the Governor’s Executive Order at this link. You can search for work if you choose.
If my unemployment benefits are extended under PEUC, can I also get the $600 a week payment under the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)?

Yes. You would be eligible to your prior unemployment insurance weekly benefit amount plus the $600 a week payment under the PUC program.  The extra $600 a week payment under the PUC program will last through July 31, 2020.

How long do I get extended payments?

You can get extended payments for 13 weeks under PEUC. Payments can be made between March 29, 2020 until December 31, 2020. There is no one-week waiting period.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits, including PEUC?

Apply for unemployment insurance benefits at this link.

The Nebraska Department of Labor has frequently asked questions for employees at this link.

The United States Department of Labor has information at this link.

Paid Sick Days and Paid Emergency Leave for Childcare

What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act is a federal law that requires certain employers to provide paid emergency sick time and paid emergency leave to care for a child whose school or daycare is closed.

How can I get paid emergency sick time?

If you need to miss work for COVID-19 related reasons, you can get paid sick time if you work for:

  • A government employer
  • A private employer with less than 500 employees

 Please note:

  • If you work for a health care or emergency responder, you employer may be exempt from providing paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Check with your employer.
  • Employers with less than 50 employees can ask that they be exempt from providing paid sick leave to care for someone else who is sick or for a child whose school or daycare is closed.
How long to I have to be employed to take emergency sick leave?

There is no requirement that you be employed for any length of time in order to take sick leave.

How many hours of sick leave will I get?

If you are employed full-time you will get 80 hours of paid sick time. If you are employed less than full-time you will get an amount of leave based upon the average number of hours you work in a week based upon a typical two-week period. So if you work an average of 20 hours a week for two weeks, you can get 40 hours of sick paid time.

What can I take emergency sick leave for?

You can take emergency sick leave if:

  • A health care provider has told you to self-quarantine even if your work is open and you can’t telework
  • You are under a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order and you can’t telework
  • You think you have COVID and need to get tested or seen by a doctor
  • You are caring for an individual who is subject to quarantine or isolation order or has been advised to self-quarantine
  • You are caring for your son or daughter because their school or place of care is closed, or if the person who usually takes care of your child is not available due to COVID reasons, or,
  • The employee is “experiencing any other substantially similar condition” specified by the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, and Department of Labor.
How much will I get paid?

It depends on the reason why you are taking the emergency sick leave.

You will receive your full pay, up to $511 per day or $5,110 total if:

  • You think you have COVID and need to get tested or seen by a doctor
  • A health care provider has told you to self-quarantine
  • You are under a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order

You will receive 2/3 pay, up to $200 a day or $2000 total if:

  • You are caring for an individual who is self-isolating because of diagnosis or symptoms
  • You are caring for your child if their school or place of care is closed, or if the person who usually takes care of your child is not available
  • You are “experiencing any other substantially similar condition” specified by the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, and Department of Labor.
  • Please note employers with less than 50 employees may ask to be exempt (not have to provide paid sick leave) from paying for sick leave related to caring for another person, including your children.
Can my employer make me use vacation days or other leave instead of the emergency sick leave?

No.

Can I be fired for using my sick leave?

No. An employer cannot fire, discipline, or discriminate against an employee who takes sick leave under this act.

How long will the emergency sick leave law last?

The law went into effect on April 1, 2020 and will end on December 31, 2020

How can I get paid emergency family leave?

You can get paid emergency family leave if:

  • You work for a government employer are employed by a government employer
  • You work for a private employer with less than 500 employees
  • You are unable to work/telework because your son or daughter under 18 years of age school or place of care is closed or child care provider is unavailable due to COVID

Please note:

  • Emergency family leave can only be used to care for a son or daughter whose school or daycare is closed or the childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 reasons.
  • If you work for a health care or emergency responder, you employer may be exempt from providing paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. Check with your employer.
  • Employers with less than 50 employees can ask that they be exempt from providing paid sick leave to care for someone else.
How long to I have to be employed to take emergency family leave?

You must be employed for at least 30 calendar days.

How many weeks of emergency family leave can I get?

You can get up to12 weeks of leave.

Do I get paid during emergency leave?

The first 10 days of emergency leave are unpaid.

  • You may elect to substitute accrued but unused vacation, personal, medical or sick leave benefits (if the employee has those benefits).

After the first 10 days, the rest of the emergency leave must be paid by the employer. 

  • You must be paid no less than two-thirds of their regular wage, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total.
Can I lose my job for taking emergency leave?

Most employees who use emergency family leave are entitled to return from leave to be restored to their job position or to an equivalent position with equivalent employment benefits, pay, and other terms/conditions of employment.

However, if you work for a company with less than 25 employees, your employer may not be required to protect your job if certain conditions are met:

  1. An employee took public health emergency leave;
  2. The position no longer exists due to changes in the employers’ economic or operating conditions that affect employment and are caused by the public health emergency during the period of leave;
  3. The employer made reasonable efforts to restore the employee to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay and other terms and conditions of employment; and
  4. After failing to find an equivalent position, the employer contacts the employee if an equivalent position becomes available during the “contact period” which is the earlier of:
    • The date the employee’s public health emergency leave concludes or
    • The date that is 12 weeks after such leave began.
How long will the emergency sick leave law last?

The law went into effect on April 1, 2020 and will end on December 31, 2020

Where can I find other resources about emergency sick leave and emergency family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?

Here are other resources where you can find helpful information:

US Department of Labor at this link.

National Employment Law Project at this link.

Employee FAQs

NOTE: As the COVID-19 public health situation changes and evolves, new laws and regulations are being continually issued. This information may not include the most recent information. For up-to-date issuances, check out The Nebraska Department of Labor’s website at https://www.dol.nebraska.gov/ and the U.S. Department of Labor’s website at https://www.dol.gov/. The information provided is for informational purposes only, and not to be relied upon by you for your unique circumstances. You should always consult with an attorney regarding the laws and your rights.

My employer closed my workplace temporarily because of the coronavirus and is forcing employees to take unpaid leave. What can I do?

You may file a claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits with the Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL). To get benefits you only need to meet certain minimum requirements, including having sufficient past earnings and an immigration status that allows you to work.

For more information about Unemployment Insurance benefits, including eligibility requirements and how to file a claim, please visit https://www.dol.nebraska.gov/UIBenefits or call 402-458-2500 (English).

Because of coronavirus, my employer made assumptions about me or treated me differently than coworkers because I am Asian or from another country. What can I do?

An employer who treats you worse than other workers because of your race, national origin, or ethnic background is violating the law. This includes employer actions that single you out because of negative stereotypes. See Information about Discrimination.

Can my employer ask me if I have a health condition (like a compromised immune system) that would be affected by coronavirus?

No. Your answer to that question is likely to disclose a disability. Therefore, the employer’s question may be against the law.

If I have coronavirus, what can my employer tell others about my condition?

Your employer is required to keep all medical information about you private and confidential, unless otherwise required by the law.

I have coronavirus and am not currently able to work because of my illness. What can I do to receive income while I’m not working?

If you have sick leave, you are entitled to use sick leave if you are missing work because of illness. Your employer should provide you with pay for the accrued sick days you have.

If your job does not provide sick leave, you may file a claim for Unemployment Insurance benefits with the Nebraska Department of Labor (NDOL). To get benefits you only need to meet certain minimum requirements, including having sufficient past earnings and an immigration status that allows you to work.

For more information about Unemployment Insurance benefits, including eligibility requirements and how to file a claim, please visit https://www.dol.nebraska.gov/UIBenefits or call 402-458-2500 (English).

At this time there is no Nebraska law that requires private sector employers to provide employees sick leave, paid or unpaid, although many employers do grant it as a popular employee benefit.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a federal law, was recently enacted. The law requires certain employers to provide sick leave and other paid time off under certain circumstances. The law will go into effect on April 2, 2020. Find a summary of the law related to employees here.

Can I lose my job if I miss work because I’m sick with coronavirus or need to care for a family member who is sick?

Your employer cannot retaliate against you for using paid sick days.

In addition, you may be entitled to job-protected time off from work for up to 12 weeks under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). You likely qualify for this leave if all of the following statements apply to you:

  • You work for an employer with at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your worksite;
  • You have worked there for at least a year, and
  • You worked at least 1250 hours in the year before you take time off

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a federal law, was recently enacted that makes amendments to FMLA, including providing paid time off for up to 12 weeks under certain circumstances related to COVID-19. The law will go into effect on April 2, 2020.   Find a summary of the law related to employees here.

Here are more FAQs for employees developed by the Nebraska.

Employment Discrimination

Discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), disability, marital status or age is prohibited in Nebraska. In general, covered entities include most private and non-profit employers with 15 or more employees, but the size and types of businesses covered depends upon the laws. State and local government subdivisions of any size, along with employment agencies and labor organizations are covered.

There is a limit on the amount of time you have to file a discrimination claim against your employer. The information contained in this section is related to Nebraska resources only. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may also investigate claims. This in not an all exclusive list of resources.

Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission

If you believe you were discriminated against by your employer because of your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, marital status, pregnancy, retaliation, whistleblower retaliation, age, or wage retaliation you can file a complaint with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission (NEOC). If you want to file a claim with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission for employment discrimination, it is 300 days from the date of harm.

Information on how to file a complaint is at this link: https://neoc.nebraska.gov/complaint/complaint.html

You can begin the process online, by phone, or in-person at one of the NEOC’s office locations. The NEOC office phone numbers are:

  • Lincoln office at 402-471-2024 or 800-642-6112
  • Omaha office at 402-595-2028 or 800-382-7820
  • Scottsbluff office at 308-632-1340 or 800-830-8633

NEOC staff is available to take calls from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. If staff is not available, or you call when the office is closed, you can leave a message and your call will be returned as soon as possible.

Lincoln Commission on Human Rights

The Lincoln Commission on Human Rights (LCHR) is an agency of the City of Lincoln, and as such it can only investigate complaints that take place within Lincoln City limits. If you live in the City of Lincoln, and believe your employer discriminated against you on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), disability, marital status or age, you can choose to file a complaint with the Lincoln Commission on Human Rights.

LCHR advises residents to be observant for any discriminatory responses or stigma related to the COVID-19 based on race, nationality, ethnicity, disability, religion or any other protected classes in our community.

To begin the process to file a complaint, call LCHR at 402-441-7624 or complete a Human Rights Intake Questionnaire to provide contact information as well as a general picture of the discrimination which occurred. Note it is not enough to simply complete the Intake Questionnaire. A LCHR Civil Rights Investigator will assist you in the filing of an official complaint (must be in writing, signed in front of a notary, etc.).

If you case does not fall under LCHR’s jurisdiction, you will be referred to the appropriate agency.

City of Omaha Human Rights and Relations Department

The Omaha Municipal Code prohibits discrimination because of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, age, sex, disability, familial status, marital status, sexual orientation or gender identity in connection with employment, housing, and public accommodation (bars, restaurants, hotels, etc.).

The City of Omaha’s Human Rights and Relations Department (OHRRD) is responsible for the investigation, elimination, and prevention of all forms of socioeconomic disparities and prohibited discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, public accommodation, and contracting based on race, creed, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, class or any other form of discrimination prescribed by ordinance or resolution.

If you live in the City of Omaha and believe your employer discriminated against you, you can file a complaint. The complaint must be filed within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination. Here is a link to how to file a complaint against your employer. https://humanrights.cityofomaha.org/civil-rights/filing-a-charge

The phone number for OHRRD is
(402) 444-5055