YOUR RIGHT TO paid leave, unemployment insurance, and safe work

If you have questions about your rights as an employee or about securing unemployment compensation, please check the resources on this page. If you need legal advice about an employment-related matter, you can apply to Pisgah Legal for help online at or call 800-489-6144.

Paid Leave (until Dec. 31, 2020)

Qualifying for Unemployment Insurance during COVID-19

All applications during the COVID-19 crisis must be filed online or by phone: or 1-888-737-0259.

You may qualify for unemployment insurance related to COVID-19 if, because of the virus, you lost your job, had your hours reduced, can’t work because of a medical condition, or are following direct quarantine orders. There are also some situations in which you may qualify if you resigned or you were fired for not following internal
rules. If you are not sure, apply.

  • You must be a U.S. citizen or legally present with work authorization (including persons with DACA and TPS) in order to qualify for benefits.


  • There is no waiting period and no work search requirement to get unemployment benefits under these circumstances.


  • Health care providers, emergency responders, and employees of some employers with fewer than 25 employees may not qualify.


  • If you take job-protected leave, you have the right to return to the same or equivalent position with the same employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.


  • *Child is defined as biological, adopted, or foster child; stepchild; legal ward; child of person acting and intending to act as a parent.

If you are getting paid leave through your employer, you must use that leave before you will receive unemployment. Start the unemployment application before using up your paid time off, so the application will be in process.

How much will I receive in benefits?

The weekly benefit amount is how much money you can receive each week in unemployment benefits. The amount is based on your earnings before you were unemployed. As of the time this fact sheet was written, the maximum weekly benefit that anyone can receive is $350.

What do I have to do when I start receiving benefits?

You do not have to do a work search or be available to work if you are receiving benefits because of COVID19. You also will not have any in person meetings at the Division of Employment Security (DES).

What if I don’t speak English?

The Division of Employment Security must provide information to significant minority populations in their own languages. If you need help in another language, ask the
Division to help you. If you don’t get the help you need, contact a lawyer.

How long can I receive benefits?

The maximum number of weeks of benefits you can receive is 20 weeks, and the minimum number of weeks is 5. The exact number of weeks of benefits you can receive will depend on the state unemployment rate. There is also a cap on the total amount of benefits a worker may receive, which is based on the worker’s previous wages and the
amount of benefits they are receiving.

What if I’m denied unemployment benefits?

If you are denied unemployment benefits, you have 10 days to appeal the agency’s decision against you. You need to do so in writing. If you are denied because your employer says you are an independent contractor, and you disagree, be sure to appeal.

Emergency Leave

You are entitled to 10 business days or 80 hours of paid leave related to COVID-19, in addition to any leave provided by your employer, if you work for a public employer or an employer with fewer than 500 employees (including employers that are franchises).

Health care providers and emergency responders may not qualify.
The leave can be used:
• To obtain a medical diagnosis or care if experiencing symptoms or to comply with a medical recommendation to self-quarantine or *to care for an individual advised to self quarantine

• To comply with a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order or *to care for an individual subject to such an order

• *To care for a child if school or place of care is closed or child care provider unavailable due to coronavirus (2/3 rate of pay only)

• *Because you are experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by certain federal officials Payment will be based on your regular rate of pay. The maximum payment is $511 per day/$5,110 total for self-care, $200 per day/$2,000 total for family care. * Only 2/3 pay is required under these circumstances.

Emergency FMLA

(amendment to FMLA through Dec. 31, 2020)

If you are unable to work/telework because your child’s school or place of care is closed, or your child’s usual care provider is unavailable because of COVID-19, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid leave at 2/3 pay, up to $200 per day and $10,000 total (first 10 days may be unpaid) if:

• Your employer has fewer than 500 employees (this includes employees of franchises)

• You have been on the job at least 30 days

Safe Workplaces:

You have a legal right to a safe and healthy workplace. The NC Department of Labor (NCDOL) has information about how workers can protect themselves from COVID-19
here: coronavirus#hazard-overview

If things at my job aren’t safe, what can I do?

You have the right to file a complaint with OSHA if you think your workplace is unsafe. You can file a complaint either online on NCDOL’s website, in writing, or by telephone (1-800-NC-LABOR). If you want OSHA to inspect your workplace, put your
complaint in writing. You can ask OSHA to keep your name confidential, so your employer won’t know who made the complaint.

If I raise questions about health and safety can my boss retaliate or discriminate against me?

It is illegal for your boss to retaliate or discriminate against you for asking questions or make a complaint about health and safety. He or she cannot transfer you, deny you a pay raise, cut your hours, or fire you because you took action regarding your health or
safety. If you have been retaliated against because of a safety or health complaint, you have 180 days to file a retaliation complaint with NCDOL’s Workplace Discrimination Bureau.

You have more protection if you complain with other workers. If you decide not to go back to work because of unsafe conditions, tell your employer exactly what you think
is unsafe, and that you are ready to come back when the conditions are fixed. Apply for unemployment benefits and explain that you are not working because your workplace is

Can my employer send me home if they think I have COVID-19?

Your employer can probably send you home as it sees fit, but you are entitled to paid leave. See the information on paid leave in this flyer.

If you think your employer is discriminating in who it is sending home because of race, color, religion, gender, national origin, or another protected category, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days.

Submit your information online to to make an appointment to speak with someone by phone. If you don’t have internet access, or you are approaching a deadline to file, call 1-800-669-4000.



¿Lo sabía Ud.?

El proceso de cumplir los requisitos por seguro de desempleo durante COVID-19

Es posible que Ud. cumple los requisitos de recibir seguro de desempleo causado por COVID-19 si, a causa del virus, perdió su empleo, recibió menos horas de trabajo, no puede trabajar a causa de una condición médica o si está siguiendo órdenes directas de cuarentena. Hay también unas situaciones en las cuales puede cumplir los requisitos si Ud. renunció o fue despedido/a por no seguir reglas internas. Si no está seguro/a, haga una solicitud. 

Debe ser ciudadano/a de EEUU o estar aquí legalmente con autorización para trabajar (incluye a personas con DACA y TPS) para poder cumplir los requisitos para beneficios.

No hay período de esperar ni requisito de búsqueda de trabajo para recibir beneficios de desempleo bajo estas circunstancias.

Se deben registrar en línea o por teléfono todas las solicitudes durante la crisis de COVID-19: or 1-888-737-0259.

¿Ha sido negada o demorada su solicitud por beneficios de desempleo? Haga solicitud para ayuda legal de Pisgah Legal online en  or by phone at 1-800-489-6144.