Can You Get Unemployment If You Quit?

Quit Job

Can You Get Unemployment Benefits?

When you quit your job, there is all likelihood that you will not get unemployment benefits unless you did so under special circumstances such as;

  • You must show good cause as to why you quit your job in the first place.
  • That due cause must indicate fault on your employer’s part. The fault should never be yours.

A good example of when show cause would be in your favor is when the employer will not give you the safety equipment for your work as required by law. In such case, this is a good cause and the company is at a fault. You are therefore entitled to unemployment benefits.

An example when show good cause will not work in your favor is when a car that you use to commute to work broke down on the way and you were unable to get to work. Although it might be a good cause, it is not the company’s fault and thus, you are not entitled to unemployment benefits.

The “Quit or Get Fired” Scenario

Sometimes an employer will ask you to resign instead of getting fired. The reason they almost always give is that by resigning, your record will look better. Note that in such a case, the unemployment agency will see this as an involuntary quit because either way, you would still have lost your job. You had zero options.

Since this is actually a fire, the agency views this as a discharge. It will then enquire about the circumstances that led to your fire. Was it gross misconduct or a simple misconduct? If it cannot be proved that there was a misconduct, then you will not be surcharged.

Make sure that the unemployment agency understands that you were given a quit or get fired ultimatum by showing that it was not your choice to quit. If you can prove that indeed you were fired, then the agency will not tag a voluntary Quit Penalty on your record, meaning that you qualify for the unemployment benefits.

Quitting because of Change of Employment Terms

Among such terms include the pay rate, the work location, the duties, the hours of work etc. You may or may not qualify for unemployment benefits. The unemployment agency will consider how small or big the change to the terms of employment contract is.

The test applied here is how a reasonable employee will react i.e. would they put up with the changes in the employment contract or will they choose to quit? In a normal situation, most employees will put up with the changes and this compounds the parameters to be used in such a test. Examples of such a test include;

Change in Duties in the Employment Contract

If for example you were hired to run and maintain the company’s data servers and all over sudden the employer changes your duties to driving the company van, this is a big change that will warrant any reasonable person to quit the job. Such a quitter will qualify for unemployment benefits.

If however you were hired to drive the company van and you are changed to drive the executives in the company, this is not a big change and will not warrant a reasonable person to quit their job. Such a quitter will not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Changes in Pay Rate as Agreed in an Employment Contract

You agreed that you will be paid $20 per hour but the boss comes and says since the company is having financial problems, you will be paid $15 per hour. This is a significant change that may cause you a lot of trouble in trying to maintain the lifestyle you are used to. Almost always, a significant change in the rate of pay will result in a quit by a reasonable person. Such a person is qualified for unemployment benefits

Change in Working Hours

Any significant reduction in working hours will almost always result in reduction in pay. If you have been working 40 hours per week and the employer reduces this to 30 hours, you will have to take a pay cut and any reasonable person will see why you decided to quit. In such a case, the unemployment agency cannot disqualify you from the unemployment benefits.

Quitting Due to Employer’s Bullying and Unfairness

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits when you quit due to bullying and unfairness, you will have to disclose why the boss is treating you in such a manner and whether you tried to seek the intervention of your boss’ boss or someone higher up in the company.

Contravening the Company Law

Note that it is illegal for your boss to discriminate you based on factors such as age, disability, national origin, religion, gender, and race. If you are being subjected to harassment due to such a case, then your employer (or boss) is contravening the provisions of the company law.

Although you will be required to prove that the people in higher authority in the company are aware of this and have done nothing about it, generally, the unemployment agency will put you into consideration as a potential candidate for unemployment benefits.

When Harassment Does Not Contravene Company Law

Sometimes the harassment is not due to contravening the provisions of the company law. It might be that your boss does not like you. The boss may be harassing you to get to quit so that he can reward his cronies with your job. Sometimes you maybe way smarter than your boss and he feels threatened and is thus looking for a way to remove you. These things are not illegal, they are unfair.

The general rule in such a case is to apply “the reasonable person rule”. Would a reasonable person up and quit their job or would they put up with it as they look for another job?

If the abuse extends the bounds of decency and is causing you some embarrassment, then the unemployment agency may consider you worthy of the unemployment benefits. However, if you are getting the grunt work and your colleagues are getting the fun work, then a reasonable person will not quit.

Before you quit your job, ask yourself what a reasonable person would do. Understand the legal provisions that state what will happen if a person in your situation quits their job. Only when you understand these things can you comfortable quit your job, satisfied in the knowledge that if you quit, you will get unemployment benefits as you look for another one.