The Burden of Good Cause to Quit Your
Job and Collect Unemployment Benefits

Let's start with the basic obstacles to getting unemployment benefits if you do quit your job in the United States, in addition to the fact a voluntary quit usually means you will be assigned the burden of proof.

  • Employers pay for unemployment insurance benefits
  • Unemployment laws, although federally mandated vary by state and are not created equally when it comes to personal good cause reasons to quit at-will employment.

At Will - two words that describe the fundamental foundation of nearly all jobs in the US and in terms used in unemployment law .. who accepts any job at will if it isn't also, suitable work?  Lots of unemployed people I suspect.

According to the most recent employee tenure survey from the BLS tenure length is up and , voluntary quits are significantly down from average.  This is an indication say the experts of our overall lack of faith the economy is recovering.  But could it be that were just not inurred enough to a fundamental shift in how the labor market now works?

But, back to unemployment insurance benefits when someone voluntarily resigns. 

There are conditions of employment that even an employer isn't supposed to ignore.  

And one of them is this insurance exception funded by an employer paid, special tax on all it's employees' wages, with the exception of a nominal tax that may be imposed on the employee in three states. (Most notably, in Alaska.)

In all states, you must of lost you're job through no fault of your own, but they don't always complete the thought and tell you that to get benefits .. the employer basically has to be found to be at fault .. instead of you.

So, this is why it's rarely enough to just say the employer, or the work gave you good cause to leave your job voluntarily.   Because voluntarily leaving your job makes you the moving party who must prove your reason for leaving was attributable to the work itself, possibly being harmful to, or the cause of a health issue, or any condition of the work, to work.

A common standard used to determine if good cause existed at the time of leaving is the reasonable person standard.    Often a question posed in a determination, or hearing decision as if another reasonable person, such as yourself, would also find they had NO CHOICE, but to quit their job.  

So, you really should consider what this imaginary reasonable person, desirous of staying employed, would do prior to quitting to prevent the need to quit.   That is what meets and sustains burden to prove good cause to voluntarily quit .. when the reason can be argued as good cause.

I myself reasonably suspect because I do peruse those BLS statistical reports, that many of you have asked this question because you are fantasizing this might be an easy way out of a job you don't like for some reason,  like maybe you're sorry you ever accepted it because it turned out to be "unsuitable".  

Proving good cause is not impossible, but it is also not easy because to put it in a nutshell, many employees find it impossible to step outside their own employee mentality about working at will and pursue exhausting alternatives to quitting.

But this dour assessment, doesn't mean I've never discussed with someone how they might try to prove a voluntary quit was with good cause, or point out there might be a more direct route found in a state employment security act  to show when good cause is allowed for personal reasons.  

Exploring good cause is central to every unemployment claim and most of them are subject to questions and answers to get to the bottom of your question. 

Can you collect unemployment when you quit your job?

When You Quit Your Job You May Need to Know
How Getting Fired and Conditional Eligibility Works

The best time to ask any question about any potential unemployment scenario is when you sense something going on in the employment that feels as if you have no control.

Some people, like me, think being proactive as an employee when there is still an employment relationship to work on, is how many people end up being able to prove they had good cause to quit, or the ability to rebut misconduct.

Although there is plenty of questions about quitting for a variety of reasons people do quit, sometimes something I learned might of change my focus to a different issue of unemployment.  Including one conditional eligibility requirement many who quit ignore.

You must be able and available to look for and work to collect benefits .. even if you're approved to collect.

You can find more Q&As about unemployment benefits and the issues that prevent payment on the Main Questions and Answer Page.