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Do I qualify for unemployment if I resigned for good cause?

by Joe
(Jacksonville)

Thank you for creating your very helpful website.

I recently resigned from my job where I had been for almost four years. All of my previous reviews under the manager who did hire me (and moved on) were categorized as "above average" and cited me as a "valued employee."

A new general manager was hired four months ago, and for some reason that I still cannot understand (except that I had good ideas and asked good questions), seemed intent on making my life miserable. He began a "behind-the-scenes" e-mail campaign to me, giving me endless assignments which I kept trying to meet, and did meet 99% of the time. The 1% that was not done was focused on, and I would receive e-mails pointing out what wasn't done vs. what had been done, and that the 1% needed to be done right away. Then I would receive a brand new list of things to do. It became like swimming upstream, like I was being set up to fail.

Whereas under the old GM I was a valued employee, under the new GM, I was being treated like a delinquent employee. Additionally, the small bonus compensation that had been agreed to when I was hired by the old GM was severely reduced by the new GM so that it became a negligible form of income.

On three separate occasions, I was verbally attacked (no screaming, just a lot of unprovoked anger and hostility). The first time, I was called into an impromptu meeting (behind closed doors) with the new GM and also my immediate supervisor (with whom I had not previously had problems), and the work that I did was methodically criticized. I was even criticized for items that had not been done during the tenure of the previous, departing GM (even though those items had not been important at all to him). This first attack made me late for a meeting that had been scheduled with our company's clients.

The second time was the next day, when he came into my office, closed the door, and proceeded to angrily criticize me for not having gotten back to a client within 24 hours -- in the big scheme of things, an item that would have normally been considered a minor task. I am very self-motivated and had actually just finished e-mailing the client (48 hours later) because I had been busy with a AAA priority project that was deadline driven and that had been met. Previously, the company had given itself two weeks to get back to clients on this topic, but the new GM did not listen to me at all as to why we did that. He also proceeded to criticize a project I had completed the previous day that took five hours and came out great. Another colleague complimented it. It appeared that he was looking for any small reason to lash out and take his anger out on someone (it appeared to me that I was the only one being targeted).

The third time, I had just completed a huge project with great success and was on another very tight deadline for a second big project. I said (and I meant it) that I would do the best I could to meet the second deadline within the time frame we had. He came storming into my office, shut the door, and told me I had an attitude problem (I had never been told this by any employer), and that this was an ongoing issue. He then proceeded to intentionally criticize different projects I had completed or was working on. People who know me and have worked with me know the quality of my work.



During his short tenure, I lost substantial weight due to stress. I had had a chronic cough for more than a month, also due to stress. I was also suffering from insomnia.

It became clear to me from the demoralizing e-mails that were methodically sent at least once a day, that he was trying to get rid of me. No matter what I did, it was never enough. His behavior was unpredictable: I never knew when I was going to be attacked verbally or on e-mail. I actually felt he was trying to provoke an argument, although I always responded calmly and professionally.

There was an ethical tipping point where I was sent an e-mail that gave a laundry list of items that "needed to be completed" by the end of that same week. I completed all of them, and completed them early. It was then that I realized that I could no longer be his whipping post and take this continued treatment every single week. For my own health, I had to leave, although I did not want to do so as I had previously liked my job (before it was made humanly impossible). I would have stayed had the new GM not created such a hostile work place.

I wrote a letter of resignation and gave two weeks notice to complete any work. I was told to leave that same day.

I am convinced that if I hadn't left, I would have been layed off or fired for who knows what reason. I feel as though he was pushing me hard so that I would leave.

My question: Am I eligible for unemployment?



Hi Joe,

First, let me just say your submission is a wonderful example of what a "detailed" unemployment appeal letter might include, but it's lacking a few details I'd like to see.

1. Your account of how you used the established grievance procedure for this type of situation as outlined by the employer's policy.

2. I didn't see any mention that you printed out and retained the emails or forwarded the emails to the parties that should of been made aware of the alleged harassment.

3. Joe, do you have medical documentation from a physician advising you quit or take a medical leave to alleviate your medical issues and did you present it to the employer?

Without the ability to prove good cause through the use of documentation plus your testimony you increase the difficulty level of obtaining a favorable ruling. Although in the absence of documentation a credibility decision can be made .. it's not a position I would choose to be coming from.

You also did not mention if during any of the impromptu meetings .. the employer was documenting.

I am not saying your position is impossible, but I'm am saying your position would be easier if you possess information which could add some weight to your position with hard copies of your efforts and examples of the type of treatment which ultimately became so unbearable you felt you had no choice, but to quit.

This is a discussion, so if you have anything to add let me know. I rarely tell anyone if I think they are eligible or not .. basically because I don't make the decision. Rather I try to point out possible weaknesses or strengths in the information you provide.



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Oct 03, 2009
I won my appeal!
by: Joe

Hi Chris,

Just a quick note to let you know that I did in fact win my appeal.

I was very prepared, but in the end, what clinched it was the fact that I had given two week's notice and was told to leave on the same day I gave my notice, which by Florida precedent (Porter vs. Unemployment Appeals) is categorized as a discharge.

One of the third party companies (that support the employer) that you mention on your Web site was in the hearing, but despite that, the ruling was in my favor. I have to say that it was great to see justice happen.

One question: I had read somewhere (not sure if it was on your site) that when an individual provides notification to an employing unit of the intent to voluntarily leave work, and the employing unit discharges the individual for reasons other than misconduct prior to the date the voluntary quit was to take effect, entitlement to benefits starts from the date of the employers discharge to the date of the voluntary quit.

Is this true? I may have read it on another site.

Thank you for your very helpful site!

Joe


Hi Joe,

I just reread our back and forth .. it's been a while.

The point you are asking about giving notice to quit and then being told to leave in advance of your resignation date...

I know there may be some states where what I'm about to say doesn't hold true, but it is the case in most states.

If you voluntarily quit for a reason that is not considered good cause for unemployment .. let's say you decided to take a comparable job with your employer's competitor.

They might have concerns about a client list or other non-compete issues. They accept your resignation which gives a 2 week notice, but tell you to clear out that day.

Benefits would be allowed (minus any waiting period) up to the date you would have resigned, but no longer because the quit itself was not for good cause and neither was the discharge.

In your case, the state, as with any quit, needs to determine whether the quit itself is with or without good cause to determine whether entitlement to benefits beyond your resignation date are in order.

I hope I explained this well enough.

Chris

PS Congratulations on your victory!!

Apr 21, 2009
Continued
by: Chris - webmaster:)

Hi Again,

The concept of the exit interview .. I believe .. was to gather insight for employers to help recognize and improve problems related to employee retention. It's an irony:)

My first point about how an employer may use an exit interview as documentation is personal experience seeing an exit interview presented as just another piece of documentation to go along with a resignation letter from an employee that when presented with the option of quitting or being fired and proceeded on to write a resignation letter and then answer questions on an exit interview .. with nothing but glowing things to say about the employer. I suspect some may think this is a way to avoid burning all bridges, but all they have done is provide the nails for the casket. So yes, you understand that the exit interview will only assist when it addresses your reasons for quitting. Resignation letters should also do the same, especially when parting on less than cordial terms. Employer's rarely offer up documentation to the state that doesn't support or believe could damage, their position. Therefore, it's a smart idea to know what's in your personnel file. Your right to get a copy when requested may be limited by state labor laws, but most of us do have the right to view it.

Of course when and if this all comes to a hearing, a subpoena if granted is not a request, it's a demand. So I'm just saying you should know what's in the personnel file at the very least. When should you do it? Now.

I guess we didn't address what your resignation letter stated. Please tell me you outlined the reasons that you felt you were forced into the decision by virtue of the employers actions.

You can try to subpoena emails, but employer's don't let accounts hang around forever.

Apr 21, 2009
Replying back 2
by: Anonymous

Thank you again!

1. I did not quite understand these points you made about exit interviews: "I know an exit interview will be provided as documentation to counter a claimant's claim they were forced to quit in lieu of discharge. It makes sense that you also could use it as documentation if you respond to the questions with the intent of raising valid points the state would be interested in exploring."

Could you elaborate, esp. on first point? As for second point, I assume the goal would be to answer why there was good cause. All in all, it sounds like doing an exit interview is beneficial?

2. I completely agree with you here: "Joe, it's important to understand that the level of harassment that may cause a person to quit and be entitled to unemployment only needs to rise to the level that when asked: would a reasonable person in the same situation quit? Your job is to tip the scale so this fact can be found."

3. Would copies of my previous reviews be acceptable in lieu of previous GM's presence?

4. "You may subpoena any additionally needed documents from your personnel file (have you requested a copy?)."

I did not know I could do this. At what juncture would I request this? Once it goes to an appeals stage? Is it also possible to subpoena e-mail records?

5. Lastly, the fact that a resignation letter was submitted is okay, correct? As long as I can answer the key question of good cause?

I really appreciate your insights!



Apr 21, 2009
continued: workplace harassment
by: Chris - webmaster:)

I think you'll do well because you are articulate and excel at presentation. Understand though that everything I've said here is without knowing the content of the emails and details of conversations and who said what and when they said it. This is what the state is supposed to do... develop the record. Adjudication nowadays is not as complete due to workloads which naturally means more appeals.

I'd sure like to be able to provide you with a link to Florida unemployment precedent decisions, but this is all I can find for Florida. http://www.doah.state.fl.us/internet/search/default.cfm

I suppose you could also check decisions in other states like Texas or California just to see the process of how a decision is made in your type of situation. California may be a bit liberal for someone in Florida, but Texas is stricter.

The real value of reading decisions is to get a feel for what elements of your case you should focus on and which ones you shouldn't.

I had a co-worker who always told the client: "unemployment is black and white, there are no gray areas. Of course this person dealt with everything from the initial claim level. I on the other hand worked primarily with appellate level issues. Suffice it to say, we had two very different perspectives because I understood things to only be black and white if every T was crossed and i was dotted, otherwise it was all gray and the outcome depended upon strategies, focus, and mistakes or omissions made by the other side and trounced on.

Apr 21, 2009
Proving workplace harassment.
by: Chris - webmaster:)

Hi Joe,

Yes about the exit interview. I've never quite understood how an exit interview is advantageous to an employer, but I have noticed the use of an exit interview seems to be selective. There's a lot of different information on the pros and cons if you do a search for "advantages of exit interviews". My opinion is they are double edged swords, especially for employers. If the employer's policy provides for the use of an exit interview and your requests for one are ignored .. it's a point that might possibly be interpreted as if the employer had something to hide or fear. I know an exit interview will be provided as documentation to counter a claimant's claim they were forced to quit in lieu of discharge. It makes sense that you also could use it as documentation if you respond to the questions with the intent of raising valid points the state would be interested in exploring.

What is harassment? I always refer people to this page at the FCC We all have the ability to make ourselves a member of a protected class. Harassment does not necessarily need to be sexual. Someone in authority over us can use their authority to harass

Joe, it's important to understand that the level of harassment that may cause a person to quit and be entitled to unemployment only needs to rise to the level that when asked: would a reasonable person in the same situation quit? Your job is to tip the scale so this fact can be found vs. a finding that your claim of harassment was basically whining about ordinary circumstances that we all can expect to endure while employed.

You have emails and notes. You spoke to HR with no solution offered. You were stressed and lost weight. Although the employer felt the need to daily harass you via email and meetings about your performance (which just happened to make you late for a client meeting) they never gave you a warning which outlined the specific problems they wanted you to address. You had above average reviews which stated you were a "valued employee" prior to this GM's arrival. (Any chance the departed GM would be a witness or even provide a statement as to your skills, ability, and work ethics).

If presented well it's a very real possibility you could prevail, but having said that. I also know that it all may come to a hearing level. If it does, at that time you will have a better idea of how the employer is approaching the issue. You may subpoena any additionally needed documents from your personnel file (have you requested a copy?) that you know to exist and would be helpful to your position.

Ran out of room, will post another comment.






Apr 21, 2009
Replying back
by: Joe

Thanks for your prompt response, Chris.

Here are the follow-up answers:

1. Our company worked with a professional employer organization. The only grievance procedure listed has to do with sexual harassment or harassment due to discrimination. These are categorized as "unlawful harassment." The grievance procedure in these instances is to call the PEO or to say something to the supervisor (in this case, the perpetrator).

(I have read elsewhere that while these are illegal in the state of Florida, it is legal for a boss to "be a jerk." See what follows here from a legal website: Harassment: General ?harassment? is not illegal. The boss is allowed to be a jerk. Harassment because of the employee's race, sex, age, religion, national origin, color (essentially, shade), pregnancy, disability, marital status, or, sometimes, sexual orientation, is illegal.)

Elsewhere in the employee manual, it does include a list of "prohibited conduct." In this list is included:

Harassing (verbally or physically) or acting in an unprofessional manner towards a colleague, customer or vendor.

Apparently (or should I say supposedly?), infractions of this list can result in corrective action, including suspension, demotion, or termination of employment. (I wonder how often this is enforced.)

2. Yes, e-mails were retained and notes were taken on my part (though not sent to the PEO).

3. The only recourse cited in the employee manual for illness is to take a medical leave of absence. In this case, the employee must be "unable to work due to a serious health condition." In this case, medical certification from a health care professional is required. While under tremendous amounts of stress (as evidenced by my symptoms), at the time, I did not think my health condition was serious enough (I guess I thought of cancer, etc.) to take a medical leave.

The GM was not documenting during the impromptu meetings, but I am 99% sure he was doing so after the fact. Also, bear in mind that my immediate supervisor was in the first meeting, so perhaps that was the new GMs form of "documenting?"

I did mention the situation briefly to our onsite HR person. This person said they had noticed a definite change in me (weight loss, increased stress) but couldn't see anything from the "outside" in terms of how the new GM was treating me. I explained that was because it was all on e-mail and behind closed doors.

I read that I am able to participate in a voluntary exit interview through the PEO. I would guess that is strongly recommended?

Thanks again for your time.




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