Unemployment insurance exists to provide a financial cushion if you find yourself jobless through no fault of your own. Benefits may be available even if you quit your job. That doesn’t mean you can leave just because you don’t like the boss or you feel like taking an extended vacation. You have to have a reason for quitting that qualifies you under state law, and you also must fulfill some other requirements.
The No-Fault Rule
The basic rule for qualifying for unemployment is that you lost your job for reasons you could not control. For example, if you are laid off or if a temporary or seasonal job ends, there’s nothing you can do about it. You may get benefits if you are fired even if the employer didn’t have a good reason for dismissing you, such as gross misconduct. You can quit your job and still receive unemployment if you leave for “good cause,” meaning a problem at work or in your personal life that makes quitting necessary. You usually have to show that you made an effort to solve the problem and couldn’t do so short of leaving the job.
When the Job Goes Bad
There are times when on-the-job problems force you to quit. State rules vary, but in general, working conditions that are unsafe or pose a health risk are considered good cause. Permanent reassignment to work you aren’t suited for or reductions in pay and hours are also considered good reasons to leave. You are not expected to stay if you are the victim of discrimination or when you believe or are told you will be fired if you don’t quit. You can also get benefits if you leave a job because you are the target of sexual harassment.
Good Personal Reasons
Your personal situation may make it difficult or impossible to keep a job and this may allow you to quit and still get unemployment benefits. Health problems are an example. You have good cause to quit if you can’t work because you have to care for a spouse or another member of your family. You can collect unemployment if child care becomes unavailable. If you are the victim of domestic violence and need to quit your job to get out of your situation, you are eligible for unemployment benefits.
Other Eligibility Rules
Quitting a job for good cause isn’t enough on its own to qualify you for unemployment insurance. Each state has requirements for minimum wages earned and time worked during a base period. The base period is usually the first four of the last five calendar quarters. You have to be able to work, be available to work and actively look for a job. Suppose you quit to return to school and can’t work. You don’t get benefits even though this is a perfectly valid reason to leave a job because you aren’t available for work. When you get unemployment, you have to file a weekly report of your job search efforts and any money you earn.
- U.S. Department of Labor: State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- South Brooklyn Legal Services: Unemployment Benefits for Seasonal, Temporary and Part-Time Workers in New York State
- MassLegalHelp: Can I Get Unemployment Insurance If I Quit My Job?
- Minnesota Unemployment Insurance: Reason You Are Unemployed
- David Sacks/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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