The general rule of thumb after quitting a job is that, in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits, a person has to show he left with just cause. He must demonstrate that the reason he had to leave wasn’t his fault, such as if he quit because of harassment or a medical issue. Most individuals quit jobs because they are unhappy with the work itself, want to pursue other opportunities, have general conflicts with the employer or coworkers or don’t like the hours and pay. None of these reasons qualify as just cause, which is why the majority of requests for benefits after quitting a job get denied. If a person has a legitimate reason for leaving work, he still needs to file a claim formally with the Department of Labor, and even then, the employer may appeal, leading to a formal hearing.
Just Cause Examples
Every state determines on its own how to define no fault. The majority of regions accept that being in unsafe conditions is a legitimate reason for leaving a job, however. Unsafe can be broadly defined as having the potential to make someone sick or suffer an injury.
Some domestic situations qualify as a no fault reason for leaving an employer because they put safety at risk. A person who is being abused, for example, might have to relocate to a new area in order to get away from the abuser. Some people may need to leave in order to protect their children or other family members, so it isn’t always necessary for the person leaving the job to be the one in danger.
Repeated discrimination or harassment also can qualify as just cause. These types of problems often create a hostile work environment, which can make it difficult to complete tasks while on the job. That ultimately can affect things like performance reviews, pay increases and promotions, creating issues with career advancement.
Another major reason people leave their jobs is because the employer cuts down their work hours or pay rate significantly. This often happens when a business is in financial trouble but doesn’t necessarily want to fire anyone. States consider this no fault because the number of work hours and pay rate affects overall income, which determines whether or not a person can support themselves. They usually consider it unreasonable to force someone to stay in a poor financial situation if other opportunities to succeed are available.
A final reason for leaving a job that the Department of Labor usually accepts is the development of a health condition. In this case, a person might wholeheartedly want to work but isn’t able to physically complete the tasks. If a person lost their hearing, for example, he might not be able to keep his job as an audio engineer in a studio. A person can qualify for unemployment but not necessarily disability. The loss of hearing, for example, doesn’t stop an audio technician from performing other types of work.
Similar to unsafe domestic situations, health conditions don’t always require the person leaving a job to be the one with the problem. A worker might have a parent with a long-term illness and need to quit in order to address her care, for example. This is an increasingly common situation for modern workers given that people are living longer than in the past and aren’t always able to afford care in a nursing home or similar facility.
Anyone who wants to get unemployment benefits, including a person who quits, has to file the proper paperwork with the Department of Labor. Technology has made it possible for workers to do this online or over the phone, but people also can go to their unemployment office to apply in person. Representatives will collect personal information such as the filer’s Social Security Number and the date work ended. The person who wants compensation has to continue to file claims once every week or two after this, depending on state rules. Registration with the State Unemployment Service is also required.
Hearing and Appeal
Some employers who recognize the reason a person quit as valid won’t fight a compensation claim, but others may choose to appeal. When there is disagreement between the employer and employee about eligibility, the state generally resolves the conflict with a hearing. This can delay getting benefits.
During the hearing, representatives from the unemployment office get basic information about why the filer left his job and whether he took steps to resolve related problems. This can be done in person or over the phone, but providing documentation to support the claims made in the hearing is a must. Without this evidence, the representatives have to rely on the verbal claims made by both the former employee and the employer, which makes the ruling more subjective.
In most cases, unless the matter is strongly contentious, a person can represent himself during proceedings. If someone quits under hostile work conditions and plans to sue the company, however, he should consider hiring an attorney. Evidence at the hearing might be important to a later lawsuit.
Pay Rate and Reasonable Offers
Being eligible for unemployment benefits generally means that a person must be willing to take any reasonable offer of employment that comes along, regardless of whether he quit or was let go. What is defined as reasonable can be tricky, however, because once again, each state has its own rules. A person in one area might have to take a job while someone in another state does not.
States typically take a person’s previous salary or pay rate into consideration when they determine whether he is eligible for unemployment benefits. They would not force a person who made $100,000 USD per year to take a job that paid only $25,000, for example. The state would give the individual a chance to find something comparable to what he had before, because people often have financial obligations such as mortgages they cannot put aside. Some regions have rules about how long a person can collect benefits before he has to expand his job search, though, so the longer a person gets benefits, the more willing he might need to be to take at least a small pay cut.