The Furloughed Federal Employee getting Unemployment Compensation.

We read some newspaper articles that Federal employees working without pay will not get State unemployment insurance and a San Francisco article that the U.S. Department of Labor has told states not to pay some employees. A client just sent an email concerning unemployment and benefits. To clarify some issues about the furloughed employee and unemployment compensation, some general information follows.

A furloughed employee’s agency should have provided furloughed employees notice and guidance on unemployment compensation an agency web sites contain some useful information. If an employee still had questions, he or she may want to contact both the human resource personnel and look at the state government policies and rules within their own state on paying unemployment compensation to a furloughed employee.

That said, five general clarifications (each case may be different) follow.

1.   What is “working.”

A distinction exists between employees working without pay and those furloughed. A furloughed employee is not permitted to work in their federal position, not even on a voluntary basis. An exempt or essential employee is working without pay. Accordingly, even if a “working” federal employee cannot collect unemployment a furloughed employee may have a claim for unemployment compensation benefits.

2. Check with your state.

An employee’s last duty station usually defines in what state the employee should apply for unemployment benefits. Each state has its own laws and policies and eligibility for unemployment compensation may vary by state. For more details about state law, see and

3. A federal program.

The Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program provides benefits for eligible unemployed former civilian Federal employees. The program is administered by States as agents of the Federal government. See Department of Labor website Several links to additional information are available at this website.

4. Seeking work.

It may vary by state whether a furloughed employee is required to seek paying work when receiving unemployment benefits. Separate from State law and policies federal ethical conflict of interest law and rules may pertain to what work can be accepted. The employee may be unpaid but s/he remains on federal rolls. This observation does NOT mean resign from federal Government, and most jobs are unlikely to create a conflict. If any question may exist about conflict of interest with a federal position, an employee may want to check with its own agency and posted policies, human resources, and/or agency ethics counselors.

5. Paying it back.

When returned to work and paid back pay, most employees likely will be required to notify state unemployment agencies and repay benefits. Check with the applicable State.


This posting is mean to be educational. It is not legal advice. For legal advice, consult a knowledgeable attorney. For additional links with information about unemployment compensation and furloughs, see the below websites.

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