Ask The Lawyer By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.


QUESTION: I retired from teaching three years ago, and found a job in an investment firm. Recently the firm downsized, and I was laid off. I am receiving a pension from the school district, and also have some investment income – am I still eligible to receive unemployment while I look for a new job?

ANSWER: Unemployment benefits are not needs-based. You could be a millionaire and still be eligible for Michigan unemployment benefits, as long as you were laid off, you are able to work, available to work, and looking for full-time work. (You also have to meet some other eligibility requirements, like having earned at least $3,589 in at least one calendar quarter in the calendar year before your layoff, and you are not eligible if you were fired for misconduct or voluntarily quit your job.)

Unemployment benefits are available to people who are not receiving “remuneration,” which the Michigan Employment Security Act defines as “all compensation paid for personal services, including commissions and bonuses, and except for agricultural and domestic services, the cash value of all compensation payable in a medium other than cash.” MCL 421.44. The focus is whether any money you receive is intended “by the employing unit as continuing wages” – whether it is severance pay, vacation or holiday pay, salary continuation, or “other monetary consideration as the result of a separation.” MCL 421.48.

Social security income does not affect your eligibility for unemployment, nor does your income from a pension plan (there may be are exceptions, if you are still working for the employer from whom you are receiving the pension), nor does the fact that you might have a hefty savings account or healthy stock portfolio.

According to a 2016 report by the Congressional Research Service, nationwide more than 3,000 people with incomes of $1 million or more reported receiving unemployment benefits in 2010. In 2014, the number of millionaires claiming benefits had dropped to zero, but 136,000 people with incomes from $200,000 to just under half a million received benefits.

Bottom line is, as long as you are otherwise eligible for unemployment benefits, and are actively looking for work, you can receive benefits – no matter how rich you may be.

The lawyers at GWINN LEGAL PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

Information provided on “Ask the Lawyer” is current as of the date of publication. Laws and their interpretation are subject to change. The material provided through “Ask the Lawyer” is informational only; it should not be considered legal advice. Submitting a question to “Ask the Lawyer” does not create an attorney-client relationship between the person submitting the question and GWINN LEGAL PLLC. To view previous columns, please visit our website.

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile

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