The collective U.S. workforce is aided and impacted by a multitude of state and federal insurance and benefits programs. These programs are designed to protect workers when they are injured on the job or can no longer work for health or age related reasons, as well as protect the economy at large by keeping the workforce productive and viable. Three of the largest programs of this type are unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance, and social security.

All states administer an unemployment insurance system to provide workers a safety net in the event they lose their jobs. This system is run by the individual states, and each state has its own eligibility guidelines. Generally, an employee is only eligible to collect unemployment insurance if he or she is becomes unemployed through no fault of their own. Workers who quit their jobs cannot collect benefits unless they were driven to quit by a hostile or unfair work environment. In addition, the employee must have worked at the job for at least a "base period" of time before being eligible to collect.

When a worker makes a claim for unemployment benefits, the government agency administering the program contacts the employer to investigate the circumstances of the discharge and the salary of the worker. The amount of unemployment benefits is based on the persons wages, usually calculated by averaging the claimant's weekly wages for the last calendar year. The employer has a right to contest the claim and have the matter determined by an independent arbitrator. This typically happens when there is a dispute over whether the worker was fired or quit, or fired with or without cause.

If the claim is unchallenged (or approved after being challenged), an individual may collect unemployment for up to 26 weeks. During that time, they are required to make a good faith effort to find a replacement job that is compatible with their education, experience, and skills. If the unemployment agency discovers that an individual is not making a good faith effort to find work, or that she turned down a suitable job offer, her benefits will be terminated.