Your Decision to Quit Your Job - Will it Be With, or Without Good Cause to Get Unemployment Benefits?

Employees tend confuse at-will employment relationships with being in a personal relationship, not to mention I've heard the term mentioned, as if it were somehow important for unemployment benefits when you quit your job and especially when someone is fired.

It's not that important now if you've already did the deed and voluntarily left your employment.

Most employees in the United States work at-will and frankly we're lucky, because it leaves us free to voluntarily quit a job whenever we want.  It's one of our basic rights to resign without a good reason, or even a good cause for personal reasons .. like maybe the pursuit of happiness.  Think about at will this way .. at least we can no longer be turned into indentured servants.

But, just mentioning unemployment benefits, changes the conversation.   Now we need to ask questions about the reason and how to prove good cause that also stacks up, to unemployment insurance laws ideas of reasons .. and good cause.

You might feel like you've been married to your job, and as many of us know, this doesn't mean the relationship wasn't/isn't a dysfunctional nightmare like some marriages, but believe me you aren't married to you job.  

Since the day you got your first real job, you've been leasing your services out to an at-will employer in business for themselves, but still in need of your skills and abilities, or just good old-fashioned physically hard, work.

Being in that sort of working relationship no matter your stature within the company, requires you to give up your right to direct and control your actions as the employee and perform to an employer's standards, expectations, and any other specified terms and conditions.

But there are words used in unemployment law that are the entire subject of numerous UI appeal decisions interpreting the intent behind the word when it was chosen by those who wrote the laws.

And one of those words you shouldn't avoid recognizing is "reasonable" .. you not only have to think in reasonable terms, you must act reasonably before you quit a job to meet the burden of unemployment laws burden of proof.

The hitch, or the reason most who quit, don't get benefits is quitting makes you the moving party and what can be good cause for benefits can vary widely by individual state unemployment statutes.

But, in all states, when you quit, you have accepted the burden of being able to prove you had good cause at the time you voluntarily left your job.

Unemployment insurance laws everywhere, always expect the moving party to not just initially show good cause, but to sustain that burden should you, or the employer appeal the gatekeeper's (claim interviewer/adjudicator)  initial determination after you apply to receive them.

My basic advice to anyone considering quitting and then filing for unemployment benefits is to accept the fact that because you were the moving party, you will be expected to also know how to fulfill your burden with what the burden demands you prove.

Acquiring proof that the fault for a voluntarily quit is attributable to the work, or the employment can sometimes take a bit of nerve to step out of a non-complaining .. go with the flow, employee attitude, but then the strength of your case for benefits often comes down to precisely this .. the efforts you made to first attempt to preserve your job..

Proof is something more easily created and gathered.. before you leave a job.  In fact, it's the timing of your efforts to prove good cause that often make, or break an argument at an unemployment appeal hearing .. that quitting was your employer's fault.

If it sound like sustaining the burden quitting a job with good cause for UI benefits is done in advance of resigning .. then by golly, I think you got it!

The Question:  Do You Think My Reason for Quitting My Job is Good Cause?

The question  has been known to drive me crazy .. because even if the reason may be good cause it leaves me wondering about the efforts that fulfill the burden of proving those efforts that might of proven good cause to collect unemployment.

The problems begin before you quit a job.   So few employees make any effort that can show their desire to keep a job, or  their intent to preserve a job, often because they assume efforts will be futile a myth about collecting unemployment when you quit a job has been assumed to be the truth .. that it's never possible.

Well unemployment laws disagree, but they also don't care about what you know in your heart, but what you can prove .. and preferably with paper documents they can see to confirm you're telling a credible story about what really happened that forced you to quit your job.

If employers know it's important to build document walls that promote the idea of employee fault for a discharge when an employer has the burden.. why haven't more employees grasped and pursued the basic idea of documenting, documenting, documenting, for their own benefit?

There are about twelve states who have constructed unemployment statutes to imply a person may have good cause to quit a job due to personal reasons of a compelling and necessitous nature, but this tends to mislead employees to think proof of good cause won't be needed for personal reasons.

Well, the compelling and necessitous purpose for quitting for personal reasons .. is often brought on by an employer's inability, or refusal to help with your efforts to preserve your job due to personal circumstances.

Here's how DOLETA's State by State Unemployment Comparison Charts explains an employee's burden of voluntarily quitting a job.

VOLUNTARILY LEAVING WORK—Since the UI program is designed to compensate wage loss due to lack of work, voluntarily leaving work without good cause is an obvious reason for disqualification from benefits. All states have such provisions. In most states, disqualification is based on the circumstances of separation from the most recent employment. These disqualification provisions may be phrased in terms such as “has left his most recent work voluntarily without good cause.” In a few states, the agency looks to the causes of all separations within a specified period. An individual who is not disqualified for leaving work voluntarily with good cause is not necessarily eligible to receive benefits. For example, if the individual left because of illness or to take care of a family member who is ill, the individual may not be able to work or available for work. This ineligibility would generally last only until the individual was again able and available.

Voluntarily Leaving—In all states, individuals who leave their work voluntarily must have good cause if they are not to be disqualified.

In many states, good cause is explicitly restricted to good cause connected with the work, attributable to the employer, or involving fault on the part of the employer. However, in a state where good cause is not explicitly linked to the work, the state may interpret its law to include good personal cause or it may limit it to good cause related to work. Since a state law limiting good cause to the work is more restrictive, it may contain specific exceptions that are not necessary in states recognizing good personal cause. (For example, an explicit provision not disqualifying an individual who quits to accompany a spouse to a new job might not be necessary in a state that recognizes good personal cause; it would be necessary in a state restricting good cause to that related to the work.) The following table identifies states that restrict good cause for quitting to reasons connected to the work.

Here's some questions and answers about quitting a job .. 

Do you believe you were forced to quit a job in lieu of being fired?  Good news .. the unemployment department thinks you were fired too .. if you had no choice in the matter except to quit, or be fired.


All Unemployment Q&As