Can You Collect Unemployment If You Quit?
In many instances, the answer would be “yes.”
Whether or not benefits are paid, depends on if the quit is for “good cause” as “good cause” is defined by the state paying the benefit. States vary widely in their views of “good cause” and their willingness to recognize same – almost always a reflection of the governing political philosophy of that particular state.
Good cause quits can fit into the following categories:
- Material change in the employment contract – such as reduction of hours/pay, changes in job duties and/or location. This is, in fact, a discharge/job elimination, not a quit, but nonetheless provides the reason for a “good cause quit.”
- Travel time/distance/cost factors – which turn employment into a ‘hardship.”
- Domestic violence.
- Domestic circumstances such as family illness or a spousal move (trailing spouse) – offered only in 50% of the states – with half of those recognizing military moves only.
- Medical reasons substantiated with medical records. However, in order to receive benefits, claimant must be Able and Available to search for and accept other work.
- Quit in Lieu of Discharge – such as a forced retirement – or other coercion such as a forced “resignation” to obtain a good reference, severance, etc.
- Other compelling reasons:
- workplace discrimination, violence,
- hazardous/unsafe working conditions,
- being forced to perform activities in violation of the law
For most of the above, you will first need to make an effort preserve the employment relationship by “addressing the grievance” with your employer in writing, detailing the problem areas and requesting employer to correct same – i.e., different job duties if you are quitting for medical reasons, possible remote work or work at different office of that employer if you are forced to quit because of a spousal move, different work location if travel time/distance/costs become a hardship.
The circumstances surrounding the separation – whether it is a quit, firing, discharge – are the determinant. While it is almost always easier to obtain benefits under a “discharge,” there are many reasons the states will pay benefits if you find it necessary to quit.
Quitting Because of Other Job Opportunities
Despite popular belief, most states will not disqualify you for unemployment benefits if you quit due to another employment opportunity. That being said, there are some things to consider.
Quitting because another job opportunity has lined up will only make you eligible for unemployment benefits if “there is reason to believe” you will be employed by another company or firm. That is, you were offered a job and made the decision to quit based on said offer.
An employee who quits solely for the reason of finding a new job will not be covered, however an employee who quits for the promise of a new job is not necessarily disqualified as long as he/she has some record (an email, a letter, etc.) of being offered a position with a new employer.
The reason someone might receive unemployment benefits after being offered another job almost always results from a promised job that never materialized or advantages over previous the previous job (better pay, more benefits) not being honored.
Quitting to Relocate With Spouse
Relocating in order to accommodate your spouse’s new promotion does not mean having to sacrifice your job as well as your paycheck. Most states have equipped their unemployment laws with a “trailing spouse” provision in order to protect family unity.
In order to become eligible for unemployment benefits under the trailing spouse provision, the relocation must be far enough to constitute an unreasonable commute. That is, even if you are relocating within the same state, the distance between your new location and your job must be inconvenient enough to make quitting a reasonable option.
Relocating to a different state is another matter. While the location in this case would absolutely invoke an “unreasonable commute”, eligibility for unemployment benefits would now depend on whether the state you moved from follows the trailing spouse provision.
While some states offer trailing spouse benefits to all employees, some only offer this benefit to military spouses.
Quitting for Medical Reasons
Receiving unemployment benefits on account of a medical condition is not the same thing as receiving disability benefits. Unemployment benefits are reserved for individuals who are physically able to participate in the workforce. Compensation for medical reasons in this context depends on the extent to which the specific employer and/or workplace caused a medical condition to occur.
Quitting for a medical reason makes an employee eligible for unemployment benefits only if the specific work environment directly causes a medical condition or aggravates an existing health problem. In both cases, the damage must be such as to make the work environment hazardous to the employee’s health. Examples include allergens such as substances being used in the workplace, exposure to harsh temperatures, etc.
Note that in order to qualify for unemployment benefits after quitting for medical reasons, documentation must be provided. This should include medical evidence stating the presence of a health issue and its cause as relates to your job as well as documentation proving that your employer was/is unable to accommodate your condition.
Something else to keep in mind is that if forced to quit while accommodations are being made (i.e. moving you to a different department), you must be physically available to work after the particular workplace conditions are no longer a threat to your health.
Quitting Because of Domestic Circumstances
Most states provide unemployment benefits for employees whose resignation is caused by domestic circumstances. This includes quitting employment to care for children, address marriage, separation, or divorce issues, illness or death in the family, or complications caused by domestic abuse.
While it is possible to be eligible for unemployment benefits after quitting for domestic reasons, the general conditions (with the exception of domestic violence) usually imply returning to work once the issues are resolved. In the case of family illness or death as well as separation, divorce, or reconciliation, compensation is only given for the period of time deemed necessary by state law. In many cases, unless relocation is necessary, the employee must be available to return to work after a set period of time.
In order to become eligible for unemployment benefits due to domestic reasons, adequate documentation must be provided such as medical statements from a physician in case of illness, death certificate, divorce documents or separation files, or in the case of domestic violence, a domestic incident report, police report, or arrest report.
- Carlson, Bonnie E. “Causes and maintenance of domestic violence: An ecological analysis.” The Social Service Review (1984): 569-587.
- “Voluntary Quit VQ 235.” – Health and Safety Considerations. <http://www.edd.ca.gov/uibdg/Voluntary_Quit_VQ_235.htm>