In some case, yes.
Although the Unemployment Insurance Act generally prohibits benefits when an employee voluntarily leaves (quits) work, it is not a blanket prohibition.
The Act says an employee is not eligible for benefits if the employee “left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employing unit…”
Regulations and precedent illuminate what this means and provide some examples.
For a separation to be a “voluntary leaving” the employee must have the option to stay employed there. If the employee does not have the option to stay, the employee has been discharged. If the employee is told he/she can resign instead of being fired and does so, that resignation is not a voluntary leaving: the employee was fired.
If the employee’s reason for leaving work is not within the employer’s control, it is not attributable to the employer.
If the employee’s job requires him to maintain a “tool of the trade” (for example a required license) and maintaining the tool is within the employee’s control it is a voluntary leaving if the employee loses his/her job for failure to maintain the tool.
Exceptions to General Rule
Even where the employee quits for a reason not attributable to the employer, unemployment benefits are available if the employee voluntarily left work:
- Because a doctor says the employee is “physically unable to perform his or her work”
- Because the employee’s help is needed to care for a spouse, child, or parent and the employer is unable to accommodate the employee’s need to provide such assistance
- To accept other work and, after such acceptance, the employee is either not unemployed in each of 2 weeks, or earns pay for the new work equal to at least twice the current weekly benefit amount
- Instead of accepting a transfer to other work under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement or pursuant to an established employer plan, if the acceptance of the other work would require the termination of the person currently performing the work
- Solely because of the sexual harassment of the individual by another employee.
- Which he or she had accepted after separation from other work, and the work which he or she left voluntarily is “unsuitable” under the ACT
- Because of domestic violence which caused the employee to reasonably believe that continued employment would jeopardize the employee’s safety or the safety of his or her spouse, minor child, or parent (This exception requires documentation and verification)
- Because the employee left work to accompany a spouse to a place from which it is impractical to commute
- Because the individual left employment to accompany a spouse who has been reassigned from one military assignment to another.
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