In general, unemployment compensation is intended to provide relief for employees who involuntarily lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Ordinarily, therefore, employees who leave their jobs of their own accord do not receive unemployment benefits. But is there ever a circumstance when an employee can get unemployment after quitting or resigning?
The answer is yes. The law provides that if an employee quits “with just cause,” he or she can qualify for unemployment compensation benefits. What constitutes “just cause” for quitting one’s job? There are several ways in which this can occur.
First, there is the situation where an employee resigns because he or she is about to be discharged. The law provides that an employee who submits a resignation in lieu of being discharged is not disqualified from receiving benefits simply by virtue of the fact that he or she technically “resigned” his or her employment. An employee who is essentially told, “Resign or you will be fired,” can still get unemployment after resigning.
Secondly, if an employee’s terms or conditions of employment are made intolerable, that can constitute “just cause” for quitting. A good example of this is if an employee is forced to work in an atmosphere of pervasive sexual harassment that the employer refuses or fails to correct. In order to get unemployment in these circumstances, the employee will normally have to show that he or she first reported the intolerable working conditions, and gave the employer a fair opportunity to correct them.
Thirdly, if the employer makes significant changes to the employee’s compensation, or to key aspects of the employee’s job, and if those changes are disadvantageous to the employee, this can give the employee “just cause” to resign, and thus qualify him or her to receive unemployment after doing so. Some examples of this would be if an employee receives a demotion, or experiences a significant cut in pay, or if the employer imposes a significant travel requirement in the job that the employee previously did not have.
Like so much else in the law, the question of whether or not an employee can receive unemployment compensation when they resign is not always clear, cut and dried. Both employers and employees can benefit from having good legal counsel when confronted by these issues.