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Can I quit the entertainment industry in CA and collect unemployment?

by Tom
(Los Angeles, CA)

I have what some might consider a "cool" job. I'm a production assistant on a network television show in Los Angeles. It's not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Essentially, I'm a go-fer. I get people coffee and lunch and get snarky comments when it's wrong. The reason I have this job is because I was led to believe it would pay off at some point and you'd be given an opportunity to get to the next level, but I've been doing this for almost four years. I can't wrap my head around the fact that I'm four years removed from a MASTER'S DEGREE and every penny I've earned since then has been by cleaning up after people and catering to their every need.

In these four years, I've become incredibly depressed. I've started questioning if I have the talent that made me move to LA in the first place. I've been on several antidepressants, spent LOTS of money on counseling and therapy, and started drinking. I would argue that my health is seriously declining from the mental toll this is taking on me.

But... I can't quit because I need the money. And if I quit, I can't collect unemployment... right? What do you think?

Thank you for this website. It's very helpful.

Hi Tom,

You may be sorry you asked what I think:)

First of all, the same rules apply to your type of job as apply to any job, be they cool or not.

You have to make efforts to preserve the job .. You need to document the efforts you made with the employer to address a legitimate problem and Tom .. depression is a health condition.

How many hours a weeks do you put in?

Health conditions requires medical documentation advising a quit due to something about the work.

The employer needs to be made aware so they can first try to accommodate or correct the conditions of your job which are making you sick.

This is the only thing you mentioned .. that might work. So you are headed in
the right direction as far as an argument, but you need to prove the argument as well.

You can read more about what is required to prove good cause for benefits when quitting for a health reason.

Now for the part where I think.

I'm feeling compelled to talk to you a bit about "questioning your talent". I personally, have no talent except possibly an ability to argue any point .. right wrong or indifferent.

But I know what it means to question your own beliefs about yourself. It's painful and we usually do one of three things.

We ignore and repress the pain and stop dreaming the dreams.

We objectively examine why, honestly assess the cause of the pain and then move forward with new understanding about ourselves.

We embrace the pain without understanding it and do a toilet flush into despair, blame and self-pity.

I for one no longer have enough life to live to succumb to anything even resembling self pity anymore.

I make the judgment nowadays of whether the reason for the pain or disappointment is the culture I spend my time in and if it is, I remove myself from it.

Or if I find I'm to blame (which is usually the case) I find it's because I've not been true to myself and I'm just a collection of dreams and longings.

I hate to hear that someone is drinking so much that they actually make mention of it .. it usually means they are drinking too much. Alcohol is for self-pity parties because it's a depressant. It's a part of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I love to travel. The destinations are usually good, but the best part of any trip is the journey to the destination.

And the best journey of all is life. There's too little of it to waste on questioning our talents or abilities when we should be pursuing and trying to fulfill them to the best of our ability.

There's too little of it to waste on behavior that can only impede or even destroy our dreams.

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Dec 04, 2009
re: quitting the entertainment industry
by: Tom

Thanks Chris, your response was very insightful and appreciated. The problem with preserving the job though, and the problem with providing good cause is that there are no conditions that can be adjusted at the job. It just IS the job. You're hired knowing that you will have to get coffee, pick up dry cleaning, and run minute errands for the higher-ups. What you DON"T know, however, is the mental toll it takes on you over time. I have a hard time explaining it to people because it's so individual to me. Most people just laugh off these jobs and let the B.S. roll off them. For whatever reason, I'm hard-wired in such a way that I store it and it festers and drives me crazy... but I can envision a scenario where I'm denied benefits because I knew exactly what I was signing up for in the first place.

I do, however, have records of every therapist and every drug I've tried. I could most certainly obtain medical documentation to prove at least that.

And thank you for the inspirational comments. I'm currently getting my own project underway, despite being nearly crippled by depression. Hopefully it brings me out of the hole.

Hi Tom,

I hope so too. But the medical documentation would be better if you can get one of those medical professionals to actually advise you quit the job.

The effort to preserve the employment could be just to make the request for a change in job duties. It's when an employer refuses to accommodate your needs based on medical advice that the burden is shifted back to the employer and can then be argued as good cause to quit attributable to the employer ..

So I hope this helps explain a little more that even though you knew what the job was when you took it you didn't know what the emotional or the physical consequences (depression) would be to you. You took the job in good faith of being able to hang, but things have changed. If you get the medical advice you need to support a quit if the employer doesn't alter something you will stand a good chance of getting benefits .. this is just how it works ..

I could point you to some precedents .. not in CA, but other states even considered to be "stricter" where medical documentation is not necessary if you verbally tell the employer of a diagnosis and medical advice, but the employer does not follow through by asking for the documentation so they can pursue the possibility of FMLA.

I understand the reasons for reticence to not inform an employer of medical conditions, but trust me, it is usually the reticence that creates
the lack of good cause, irregardless of the reasons for it.

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