When Carol landed her dream job working for a publishing house, she thought her life was set. Good location, good pay, and great benefits – what more is there to life? The first few months went by pretty inconsequentially, but soon Carol started to notice something a bit strange.
Her manager started sending her inappropriate emails that made her feel uncomfortable. It got worse and worse, until one day, when Carol was in the kitchen heating up her lunch, her manager walked into the kitchen and asked her on a date. Problem is: Carol’s manager had a wife and two kids. Carol felt extremely uncomfortable and turned down the advances of this man who was 35 years her senior. Over time, these advances continued to become increasingly abusive. Soon, Carol realized she had to leave.
There was no way she could stay at such a place where such culture was rife. She spoke to her best friend, Sandy, who told her she should make a complaint against him, but Carol did not want to antagonise the company that could ruin her with one phone call. Instead, she quietly resigned stating health reasons as the excuse. What Carol didn’t account for was that she would struggle to find a job after quitting.
Carol reached the point where her savings were quickly dwindling, as she was worried about being able to pay rent. She thought about moving back in with her parents, but when she called her dad, he told her that she might be eligible for unemployment. Carol wasn’t sure if you could apply for unemployment if you quit, so she started to research. What she found was that to apply for unemployment, she would need to open up about inappropriate incidents as, in order to get unemployment, you need to provide a good reason for quitting.
Of course, there are many work situations that you should not be required to stay in, just for the sake of money. Likewise, there’s also no excuse for quitting and expecting benefits if your reason for leaving was unreasonable. In most cases, if you have good cause for quitting, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits, but there are strict regulations on this and it can change from state-to-state. In most cases, you will not be eligible for benefits, but if you do have a good enough reason, you may be able to collect benefits. Of course there are many valid reasons to leave a job including lack of advancement opportunities, bad hour,s or monotonous responsibilities, but these do not meet the legal definition of good cause. States tend to assess benefits on a case-by-case basis rather than making blanket statements.
1. Family emergency or illness:
If a member of your family requires your express attention because of a medical condition, this is considered a good reason. For example, if a family member is terminally ill and you need to supervise their late term care, this would qualify.
2. Abusive or intolerable working conditions:
Like in Carol’s case, if a manager has been sexually harassing you, and the employer has not taken the steps to remedy the situation, this is a good enough cause for you to quit. You will, however, need to prove this, so if there is a paper trail, make sure you keep it.
3. Safety concerns:
If you find yourself in danger with a safety concern that is not typically associated with your work, this is a good enough cause in the eyes of some states. For example, if you are injured by a piece of machinery that has repeatedly caused problems for the company, which has not been addressed, you are within your rights to claim unemployment.
4. Quitting to care for a child:
If your child’s care situation has changed, and you can no longer take them there or find another appropriate form of childcare, then you are within your rights to claim unemployment if you have to resign. You do, however, need to prove that you have made a concerted effort to find childcare.
If you are in an accident with an uninsured driver (and you don’t have access to another vehicle), and you don’t have the resources to replace the car at that moment, then this is a valid reason to leave a job. Also, if a bus route is cancelled, and you have no other reasonable means of getting to work, you have a valid reason.
6. Pay reduction:
A pay reduction of more than about 20 per cent may be deemed as an acceptable reason for leaving your job.
7. Employment pressure:
If an employer asks you to commit an illegal or immoral act, then you are within your rights to leave the job.
8. Contract issues:
When an employer has not honored the terms of a contract after it has been brought to their attention, you have legal ground to quit your job and still receive benefits.
Make sure that before you quit, you take reasonable steps to rectify any of these problems and have kept any communication with your employer so you can provide proof. Emails, texts and phone messages are all valid to prove your point. This documentation could make the difference between whether you receive unemployment benefits or not.
“What the employee needs to do, as soon as they’re disgruntled and have had enough, they need to notify their employer in writing and document it. They can say, ‘Listen, I went to the employer on such and such day, and this is what I have a problem with. You’re putting more responsibilities and jobs on me that I didn’t agree to do when I was hired, and I am paying for things that I didn’t agree to when I was hired. What are you going to do about it? How are you going to compensate me?’”
“And typically the employer will say, ‘Oh don’t worry about it, we’re going to work on it, I’m going to take care of you.’ That makes the employee continue to work there. And then finally, on the last day, they say, ‘I’ve been complaining all this time, I’ve complained several times in the month of December, I’ve complained several times in the month of February, nothing’s happened. What do you plan to do about it?’
“Finally, the employer’s going to say, ‘Nothing actually, because I can’t afford it.’ Then you’ve got reason to quit. Clearly the employer has shown that he was going to induce you to stay by telling you he’s going to take care of things and change things and then finally admits, “Nothing’s going to change, if you don’t like it, you can leave.”
“If you document it all these times and you have a hearing, at least you are going to have the proof you need to show a good cause for giving up your job.”
When you quit your job, you should apply or unemployment in person at your local unemployment office so that you situation can be explained in person to the counsellor. If you file online or by phone, it will be much more difficult as the online system does not have a place for you to explain the reason as to why you quit your job.
After you apply, you will get a letter in the mail saying whether you can get benefits or not, or if you have to give more information.
As a rule of thumb, if you were laid off, you will probably get a letter saying that you are eligible for benefits, but if you were fired or quit, the letter might ask you to give more information at a hearing. The letter will say the date and time of your hearing. If you are unable to attend at that time, you need to call the contact number as soon as possible to explain why you are unable to attend.
If you apply for unemployment, your application may be denied if you have quit your job. If your application has been denied, this means your employer is denying your right to apply for unemployment. Making an unemployment eligibility appeal can be a long and arduous process, so be prepared to put in the work. It could be weeks or months before you actually get a hearing at all, so be prepared to wait.
What will disqualify me from being eligible for unemployment benefits?
- You will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job just because you didn’t like it anymore.
- You will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit because you did not like your boss.
- You will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you don’t want to work your job anymore because they are not convenient.
- You will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you didn’t get a raise you wanted.
- You will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit because you decided you want more money.
How to quit your job the right way
If you are not happy in your current role, you should find a new position before you quit. While the above are all good reasons to quit your job, they are not good enough reasons to warrant you quitting without finding a new job. Everything will be much easier if you have a new job ready to go to rather than waiting for unemployment benefits. If you can’t find a new job, stick it out until something comes up because in most cases you will be ineligible for unemployment benefits if you just decide to leave.
Remember that each state has different rules pertaining to unemployment benefits. You should make yourself familiar to the laws that govern your state. For more information on the laws of individual states, you should read material distributed by your local legal aid. You can find information for all the states here.