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Can I quit my Job and collect Unemployment if my employer decreased my hours and changed my job responsibilities? (California)

by Rusty
(Bay Area, California)

My name is Rusty and I was recently hired at a car dealership as a service adviser. I've been there three months during which time I have not yet seen a commission check partly due to 40% of daily sales are free to customers, in the form of special deals, making it quite difficult, if not outright impossible to earn a commission. (no one is spending money in this economy)

Recently they have hired two more service advisers, which makes a total of six and have shortened our work week from five days to four, making us work the fifth day as an outside sales caller (cold calls, henceforth CCs) to possibly build accounts for the dealership.

This CCing and account building was not part of my job responsibilities nor my job requirements. None of this was part of the job interview. They do not pay me for my time CCing and make me use my own vehicle.

With the addition of two more writers, and one less day for possibility of commissions, it is making it even more difficult to make a small if any commission.

If I quit, based on the reason that they did not include these responsibilities in my job description, would I be eligible for unemployment? OR, if I were to refuse to do the work which was not included in my job description and I was fired for that reason, would I be able to collect?

My previous job was as a service adviser for another dealership that had to close its doors do to the failing economy. I earned $65,000 annually and got $1900 in unemployment during the time that I was without work for three months.

Considering that I have only worked for this new dealership for three months, and it is now becoming apparent as to how they are using their employees for additional responsibilities without additional benefits, is there any possibility that I would be able to return to my original unemployment status while looking for new work? Would I be able to return to 1900 a month for unemployment? Or would my unemployment (if I could receive it under these circumstances) be recalculated to a lower number because this current job pays me less?

I am seriously considering quitting or refusing
to do the work and be fired based on the poor pay and increase in responsibilities, but only if I am eligible for unemployment. I have another job possibility down the line, but at this point it is no guarantee.

Any help and information regarding unemployment and my eligibility under these circumstances would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Rusty,

It's a good question and it brings up a central issue people ask about quite often .. "Do I have good cause to quit?".

I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to restate what I think I heard .. If I'm wrong you'll have to let me know.

You were hired on as a service adviser for which you do have a "written" job description. You were working 5 days a week .. (base plus commission or hourly?), but recently the employer has cut you back to 4 days a week (by the way, were you told at time of hire that you would not receive commission on "specials") and you are now required to work the 5th day unpaid and use your own car for "sale calls"?

How long have you been working under the "new conditions"?

If I got it right, I suggest you read Misconduct MC255 I also suggest you read VQ 5 for the elements of what good cause are in California. The guide is a great resource for anyone who needs to understand how decisions are arrived at .. except for the fact that most states don't allow benefits for personal compelling reasons unless it is somehow connected to the work (refusal of a request for leave or accommodations, etc.)

Rusty, there is one thing an employer must do .. they must pay us for our time. If this employer fires you for refusing to work one day without pay and use your personal vehicle for sale calls and you don't get unemployment ... you didn't tell me something .. like you're salaried.

If you are salaried .. it could change how your situation is viewed and I think you would have to pin all hopes on a "substantial change in the conditions of employment" only.

And I not sure the changes would be enough to prevail.

Read the guide, if you have more questions .. ask.


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Jun 30, 2009
More thoughts on proving good cause to quit.
by: Chris - (webmaster:)

You quit because of a change in the condition of employment.

You will have to make clear that the employer did not adequately relate the pay structure during the hiring process and that the subsequent changes in your job duties effectively eliminated your ability to earn the commission.

I might also mention that when someone is collecting unemployment and they are offered another job .. they can refuse the job if it is "unsuitable".

So I suggest you read up on what CA says about suitable work.

You need to find a focus because I can tell you right now that any argument involving quitting due to financial hardship alone .. won't cut it.

Discrimination applies only to to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age and disability.

But if the employer told accounts would be fairly and impartially given .. make that known.

You have to prove that the employer's actions would cause any reasonable person to quit. Determining what is reasonable as far as good cause goes is what the determination guide is for. If an employer misleads someone during the hiring process this naturally would diminish a potential employee from making an "informed decision" about the suitability of the work. And in your case this was apparently compounded by changes made by the employer after your hire which were even more detrimental.

Good Luck Rusty.

Jun 30, 2009
by: Rusty

I got an hourly base pay of $12. I am working for straight commission at 7.5% draw.

I would have to make $65,000 of retail sales, in order to get 7.5% of the gross profit to even qualify for the commissions.

This basically means that, I have to make $65k retail, just to break even for my $2250 a month, which comes to $12 hourly (for the amount of hours that I work). They only pay this to allow you to survive. You have to exceed the 65k in order to make any commissions at all, which is next to impossible now that they've hired two more writers and have taken a day away from me to make cold calls.

I might mention that this has *nothing* to do with my job performance.

None of this was mentioned in the interview process. The CCing was to start the 1st, and I quit. Yep, I explained to my employer that I cannot support my family with this pay structure and I refused to do the CCing too, seeing has how it was not part of my job description at all and turned me into a 'salesman' rather than a 'service writer/adviser'

So, here's where we stand: I quit because I cannot support my family with this pay structure. I have been forced to do work that was not part of my job description, AND they did not explain to me that the majority of the commission work that I would be doing, was dealing with customers that are using free coupons and free oil changes all day. This makes it impossible to make anywhere near 65k. They were using us.

Also another thing to mention: The other writers that have been there for years are being 'fed' accounts. What this means is that they're cherry picking that which they prefer, and leaving the rest to us. Essentially they are taking all the high dollar accounts and leaving the cheapies to us. Could this be considered discrimination? Considering that they're all the same title? Same level of employment? The cherry picking was not explained in the interview process.

At this point since I've already quit I would like to see if I can get any unemployment until I get a new job, but I doubt I'll be unemployed long.

Any other details let me know.

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