When you lose a job through no fault of your own, chances are you will become eligible for unemployment benefits. Usually, only workers who are laid off receive unemployment benefits, but in limited cases, you may be eligible if you quit your job. There's a big caveat; you must show good cause before your application will be approved by your state.
When you apply for unemployment benefits, you apply through your state. Each state has its own laws that pertain to awarding benefits, including strict rules for those who have quit. If you have quit, then you must prove to your state that working became unreasonable because of a hardship and quitting was the only option. To succeed, make sure you document your hardship as well as the efforts you made to improve your situation.
Work-Related Hardship Reasons
There are a variety of working conditions that states consider good cause for quitting. For example, according to MassLegalHelp, which advises residents of Massachusetts, if your working conditions were "unsafe or unhealthy" and your employer refused to do anything about it, you may be eligible for unemployment if you quit. If your employer changes your job permanently, discriminates against you or harasses you, then you may be eligible for unemployment. However -- and this is important -- you must prove to the state that you attempted to rectify the circumstance while you were employed before your unemployment claim will be approved.
Personal Hardship Reasons
If a personal situation arose that required you to quit your job, you may be eligible for unemployment. Leaving your job to take care of yourself if you're ill or of a sick family member may qualify. If you are the victim of domestic violence and you left your job to protect yourself or your family members, then you may qualify. Some urgent child care or transportation matters may make you eligible for unemployment if you quit, too, although these reasons aren't always acceptable. If you are quitting for some personal reasons, such as domestic violence or sexual harassment, you may not need to show proof that you attempted to resolve your working situation; check with your state before filing your claim.
What Makes You Ineligible
You'll probably need to file an appeal to explain your extenuating circumstances to your state, and your reasons must be compelling. If the state determines that you quit because you didn't like your boss or another coworker, or you wanted a raise and didn't get one, your claim will be denied, according to the Connecticut Network for Legal Aid, which helps people with very low incomes. Losing childcare or your own personal transportation -- gray areas -- doesn't automatically make you eligible for unemployment, either. As a result, find out in advance what your state considers reasonable and do your best to build your case. Otherwise, you may find yourself living without the safety net that unemployment insurance provides.
- U.S. Department of Labor - Find It By Topic - Unemployment Insurance (UI)
- Nolo: Collecting Unemployment Benefits
- America's Service Locator: Unemployment Insurance - Please Select a State
- America's Service Locator: Unemployment Benefits
- Nolo: Best Employment Law Websites
- Workplace Fairness: Resources for Working People
Lisa Bigelow is an independent writer with prior professional experience in the finance and fitness industries. She also writes a well-regarded political commentary column published in Fairfield, New Haven and Westchester counties in the New York City metro area.