To quit a job and receive unemployment, you must establish that you had just cause to quit. This has been interpreted to mean that you must show that an ordinary intelligent person in similar circumstances would be justified to quit. This summary of the rule often misleads people into false sense of security that they will receive unemployment compensation if they quit a job. This is because this rule is only the tip of a much larger set of rules that establish stricter requirements upon a person quitting a job.
You Must Notify Your Employer of the Problem Before You Quit
For example, a person who resigns may also have to show that they made the employer aware of the problems and gave the employer sufficient opportunity to correct the problems. They may have to show they pursued other options before resigning. This is true even if the problem is a medical condition. The employee must still make the employer aware of the problem and give the employer the opportunity to adapt the working conditions to meet the medical restrictions.
Likewise, even if one is being subjected to sexual harassment, they may need to establish that they made the employer aware of the issue and gave them adequate opportunity to correct the problem.
Generally, if an employee quits due to transportation issues or family obligations, the employee will not qualify for unemployment compensation. Quitting to accept another job is also considered to be without just cause, and the employee will be suspended from benefits, though there are conditions where they may remove the suspension if they become separated from the new employment.
Quitting Before You Get Fired
Interestingly, the issue often arises where an employer calls an employee in to tell them, "Sign this resignation, or you are fired." When an employee quits in anticipation of an inevitable discharge, the issue becomes whether the employer had just cause to terminate the employee. If the employer did, then the employee will not qualify for compensation. However, if the employer did not have just cause to terminate, then the employee may well qualify for compensation despite the resignation. Important here is to establish that the termination was inevitable – that it was certain to happen.
One should not be misled to believe that they merely need to show that another ordinary person would have quit in the same circumstances. Undoubtedly, many would think resigning upon the first instance of sexual groping would meet this test, as would quitting to follow a spouse to better job or quitting due to having children. Anyone anticipating resigning should be sure to do thorough research into these rules, or consult with a legal professional knowledgeable of these laws.
To learn more, see our section on Eligibility Rules for Unemployment Benefits.