Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in Tennessee are administered by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  The program is designed to assist unemployed individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.  Benefits are funded by employers who pay into the Tennessee Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, and a person’s eligibility to receive those benefits is based on Tennessee’s Employment Security Law.

To qualify, a person must be able and available for work, conduct an ongoing job search effort each week while certifying for unemployment insurance benefits, and they must have been separated from their most recent employment for a non-disqualifying reason. 

How Unemployment Insurance works in Tennessee

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Iowa.

  1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements.  You must meet all requirements to be eligible to collect unemployment insurance in Tennessee.  This includes determining that you have earned enough wages during your base period, that you became unemployed through no fault of your own, and that you are ready, able and willing to accept a suitable job offer.
  2. If you meet all benefit requirements, then you can apply for unemployment insurance.  To apply you must submit a claim application must apply online here.
  3. Determine the amount of your benefit.   After you apply, you will receive a determination letter in the mail detailing your weekly Tennessee unemployment amount.  You are eligible to receive up to $275 per week for 26 weeks under current state benefit policies.
  4. Decide how you want to be paid.   You can receive benefits by having funds uploaded to a debit card, or by choosing to have funds deposited directly into your checking or savings account. 
  5. Conduct an ongoing job search.  You are required to conduct at least three job search activities each week you claim benefits.  Falsifying this information could cause you to lose benefits for eight weeks.  
  6. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.  If you are denied benefits you appeal the decision.

Eligibility requirements

To be eligible to receive benefits initially and on an ongoing basis in Tennessee, you must meet all requirements.  Those requirements include:

  • You must be totally or partially unemployed through no fault of your own.
  • You must have been paid sufficient qualifying wages during your base period
  • You must certify for benefits every week beginning with the week after you file your initial unemployment claim.  This will involve answering questions every week for the prior calendar week by telephone.
  • Claimants must make a reasonable effort to find work while claiming benefits.  You will be required to provide detailed information regarding your search while must take place with at least three employers per week.  Failing to conduct at least three work searches will result in a loss of benefits unless you are job attached, a member of a hiring union or attending approved training.
  • You must report any change of address or contact information in a timely manner.  All correspondence and phone notices are made to the contact information on file.
  • You must respond to written notices or telephone calls in a timely manner from agency representatives.
  • If you start collecting a pension, you must report that information to the agency immediately since some types of pensions are deductible from UI benefits. 
  • You must report gross wages from any work you perform while claiming benefits.  To avoid overpayments, you will need to report earnings during the week you earned them, and not when you are actually paid.
  • Your first week after filing an initial claim that is approved and monetarily eligible is called a waiting week. You must file weekly certifications for four consecutive weeks, meet all eligibility requirements, and not equal or exceed the weekly benefit amount in order to be paid for the waiting week.

Why you might be disqualified from receiving benefits

  • If you voluntarily quit without a good reason.  Harassment or being asked to perform illegal activities could still allow you to collect benefits
  • If you voluntarily move to another location
  • Failing to earn enough qualifying wages
  • Lack of transportation
  • Lack of childcare
  • Quitting to take care of a friend or relative
  • Quitting so that you can attend school
  • Routine change in work hours
  • Unable to get along with other employees
  • Discharged for misconduct such as excessive tardiness or absenteeism
  • Insubordination
  • Intentional violation of company rules
  • Theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Accepting bribes
  • Inflicting bodily harm on another employee
  • Disclosure of confidential information
  • Failure to accept a referral for work, or not accepting available and suitable work. 
  • Receiving unemployment benefits from another state while drawing or attempting to draw unemployment benefits from the state of Tennessee.
  • Failing to make at least three valid work searches each week.  You may lose benefits for eight weeks if you provide false work search information.

If you are disqualified for any reason, you may reopen your claim by calling Claims Operations (1-877-813-0950) when the condition(s) causing your disqualification no longer exist.

How to file a claim

Before you file a claim, you will need to gather some information that will be needed to complete your application.  This will include:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s License Number
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Valid email address
  • Banking information if you choose to receive benefits via direct deposit
  • Your DD214 Member 4 if you served in the military in the past 18 months
  • Details on your last 18 months of employment
  • Last day worked
  • Reason for separation from your last employer
  • Your employer’s information – name, address and phone number

To file an initial Unemployment Insurance benefits claim, you must apply online here.

If you have questions regarding how to file a claim, you will need to call Claims Operations at 1-877-813-0950.

After you file an initial claim

The Telephone Information and Payment System (TIPS) line weekly certification process is a fast, reliable way to file a weekly certification for unemployment insurance benefits. While unemployed, you will need to certify each week beginning with the week after you filed your claim using a touch-tone phone.

Call the appropriate number to file your claim:

If you are a Tennessee resident, call 1-800-689-9799

If you are an out-of-state claimant, call 1-800-262-8094

Access to TIPS will be granted after you file a new claim for unemployment benefits. After access is granted, simply call the TIPS number and follow the recorded instructions.   You must certify your eligibility on a weekly basis as long as you are unemployed.  If you delay the process, your benefits could be delayed or denied.

If you are unable to successfully certify on the TIPS line after you file your claim, you must contact Claims Operations at 1-877- 813-0950, Monday through Saturday, 7 am to 6 pm and Sunday, 8 am to 4:30 pm.    

How much will I be paid?

To determine a weekly benefit amount on an initial unemployment claim, wage amounts are reviewed for a time frame called a Standard Base Period. This is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the date the initial claim is filed.  The base period changes on the Sunday of the first complete calendar week of the new quarter.

Calendar quarters are either January - March, April - June, July - September or October - December.

To receive benefits you must have earned a minimum of $780.01 in each of 2 quarters during your Standard Base Period.  If you’ve met this requirement, them the wages earned will be used to calculate your weekly benefit amount.

The maximum amount of benefits you may be eligible to receive in your benefit year is the lesser of 26 times your weekly benefit amount (WBA) or one-fourth of your base period wages. To be eligible for benefits, you must have base period wages outside the highest quarter of your base period of at least six times your WBA or $900.

If you worked in Tennessee during your base period but moved to another state, you may be able to a claim for benefits on those wages earned in Tennessee. If you worked in another state during the base period, but moved to Tennessee, you may file a claim for benefits from another state.  In some cases your wages from two or more states may be combined to establish an eligible claim for benefits.

Eligible claimants may receive up to $275 per week for a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment insurance per year.

Based on your wages, you will be mailed a determination letter explaining the amount and duration of your benefits.

Unemployment applications takes about 14 to 21 days to process.  If approved, you can expect your first deposit to your account within 72 hours after that.

How will I be paid?

Tennessee unemployment insurance beneficiaries receive benefits through the Tennessee Automated Payment (TAP) debit card or by having funds directly deposited into their personal checking or savings accounts.

Claimants can enroll for debit cards or direct deposit payments online here. Go to "View/Update Payment Information" to select method of benefit payment.

If you choose to receive benefits via a TAP card, it will arrive in a plain window envelope.  Once the TAP card is issued, it is valid for two years and you should keep it until the expiration date for payments on your current and possible future claims.  As soon as you receive the card, contact Chase Bank Customer Service at 1-866-429-9835 to activate the card.  Also use this phone number if you have any problems with your debit card.  If you have problems with the direct deposit option, contact Claims Operations.

Looking for a job while claiming benefits

You must conduct a minimum of three job search activities per week to remain eligible to receive UI benefits.  These activities can include filling out a job application, attending a workshop, making contact with an employer, attending a job fair, and other related activities.

You should also seek job search help at any one of the 95 local American Job Centers throughout Tennessee.  You can find the nearest location here.

What if I am denied benefits?

If you are denied benefits, you will receive a written notification. You have the right to appeal this decision within 15 calendar days or the date the notice was mailed.  You can file an appeal by:

Mail

Appeals Tribunal, Dept of Labor and Workforce Development,

220 French Landing Drive,

Nashville, Tennessee 37243-1002

Fax

 615-741- 8933

Online 

http://www.tn.gov/workforce/topic/file-an-appeal.

You must certify weekly to remain eligible for benefits should filing an appeal result in approval

You may be represented by an attorney or assisted by any other representative you choose. If you cannot afford an attorney, free or low cost legal assistance may be available through your local legal services organization or bar association.  

Key terms

Allowable Earnings - The amount of earnings a claimant may earn without reducing his weekly benefit amount (WBA).

Standard Base Period - The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the initial claim date.

Calendar Quarter - A calendar quarter is three months of either January - March, April - June, July - September or October - December.

Covered Employment - You will receive a W-2 form for most covered wages. Employment that meets provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA), Chapter 7, of Tennessee Employment Security Law with Regulations for coverage by the unemployment insurance program.

Direct Deposit - Electronic method of payment of unemployment benefits directly to claimant's checking or savings account.

Initial Claim - The first claim you file that establishes a benefit year ending (BYE) date.

Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA) - The maximum amount of benefits you may be eligible to receive in your benefit year is the lesser of 26 times your WBA or one-fourth of your base period wages. To be eligible for benefits, you must have base period wages outside the highest quarter of your base period of at least six times your WBA or $900.

Monetary Determination - This is based on your covered employment wages earned during a base period.

TAP Card - Claimants may elect to receive their unemployment compensation via a VISA Debit Card, known as Tennessee Automated Payment (TAP) Card.

TIPS - Telephone Information and Payment System

TRA - Trade Readjustment Allowances are income support to persons who have exhausted unemployment compensation and whose jobs were affected by foreign imports.

Wage Protest - A wage protest is completed when a claimant does not agree that his covered Tennessee wages are correctly reflected on the Wage Transcription and Initial Monetary Determination.

 Waiting Week - The first week you certify for after filing an initial and monetarily eligible approved claim is your waiting week. This Agency does not pay you for this week unless you certify for, and are eligible for, four consecutive weeks.

For more information

To file an initial Unemployment Insurance benefits claim, you must apply online here.

The Telephone Information and Payment System (TIPS) line weekly certification process is a fast, reliable way to file a weekly certification for unemployment insurance benefits. While unemployed, you will need to certify each week beginning with the week after you filed your claim using a touch-tone phone.

Call the appropriate number to file your claim:

If you are a Tennessee resident, call 1-800-689-9799

If you are an out-of-state claimant, call 1-800-262-8094

Contact Claims Operations for a number of different services:  1-877-813- 0950

For general information on Tennessee Unemployment Insurance benefits, go here.