Can I get Unemployment Insurance if I quit my job?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If you quit your job and you want Unemployment Insurance (UI), you must have had a good reason for quitting. There are two kinds of reasons the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) accepts:

  1. Serious employer-related reasons, called "good cause attributable to the employing unit," or
  2. Serious or important personal reasons, called "urgent, compelling or necessitous reasons."

If you left work for one of these reasons, then it was not your fault.. But, you need to show that you tried to solve the problem before you left. Or, you need to show there was nothing you could do that would work. You do not need to show anything if you needed to leave work because of domestic violence or sexual harassment. You can only get unemployment benefits if you quit your job for reasons like these:

Examples of job-related reasons

  • Unsafe or unhealthy working conditions, including dangerous working conditions or equipment;
  • A transfer to unsuitable work (a different kind of job that is not right for you
  • An employer changes the job, such as giving you fewer hours (so you are not full -time anymore), paying you less than before,  or not paying you the minimum wage. The change must be permanent, not just for a short time; or
  • Unlawful discrimination or harassment, including sexual, racial, or other unreasonable harassment.

Reasons like these are called "good cause attributable to the employer."

Examples of personal reasons

  • Your own declining health,
  • Union rules,
  • In very limited cases, a lack of transportation,
  • Leaving to care for a sick family member,
  • Domestic violence, or
  • Leaving to take care of unexpected and urgent problems with the child care arrangements you have been using.

Reasons like these are called "urgent, compelling or necessitous reasons" for leaving work. 1

Note

In almost every case, you must try to solve problems with your employer before you quit your job. Even if you have a good reason to quit, you must show that quitting work was your last choice.

If you leave work for personal reasons, you must ask for a “leave of absence” so that you can take care of your personal issues and keep your job. You may not be able to fix the problem or get a leave of absence, but it is important to try.

If you need to quit because of domestic violence or sexual harassment, you do not have to show anything. These are reason enough. You do not have to show that you tried everything you could to keep your job.

Example

You were transferred to a night shift. You had no child care, and no other shifts were available. You could prove that you tried to solve the problem. The DUA looks into your past actions and your employer’s past actions to figure out if you should get unemployment benefits.

Did you leave your job voluntarily?

Sometimes workers do not want to leave their jobs but they feel that they have to quit. In this situation, it may still be possible to get unemployment benefits. 

You may be able to get unemployment benefits if

  • you left your job because you believed that you were about to be fired; or.
  •  you quit after your boss gave you the choice of quitting or being fired.

You may need to show that you tried to fix any problems you had with your job or your employer before you left.

endnotes

1 See Were There Urgent and Compelling Personal Reasons Causing the Claimant to Leave Work?, Question 29 in the Unemployment Insurance Advocacy Guide  - MassLegalServices.org 

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Last Updated December 2012

Take the quiz!

Jose
1. Can Jose get Unemployment benefits?
Jose drives a delivery truck. Every morning he checks the brakes, headlights, and mirrors on the truck before he begins his route. One day he found that the brakes were not working well. He told his boss, Mr. Brass, that the truck was not safe. Mr. Brass said that he didn’t have time to get the truck’s brakes fixed. He told Jose to use the truck’s emergency brakes instead. Jose asked if there was a different truck available. Mr. Brass said “no.” Jose refused to drive the truck. He quit his job. Can Jose get Unemployment benefits?
answer type: 
Correct
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
No
Correct! You can get unemployment benefits if you quit your job because of unsafe working conditions. This includes dangerous equipment. Mr. Brass asked Joe to drive a truck without good brakes, He asked Jose to work in a very dangerous situation. Jose tr
Sorry, the correct answer is 'Yes'. Explanation: You can get unemployment benefits if you quit your job because of unsafe working conditions. This includes dangerous equipment. Mr. Brass asked Joe to drive a truck without good brakes, He asked Jose to work in a very dangerous situation. Jose tried to solve the problem by asking for a different truck. When this did not work, he had to leave the job. In order to be safe, he did not have any other choice.
Janet
2. Can Janet get Unemployment benefits?
Janet works in a convenience store from Monday to Friday. Her boss, Ms. Lewis asked Janet to work from Tuesday to Saturday because a weekend worker had a broken leg and could not work. Ms. Lewis said that after three weeks, the weekend worker would be able to return to his job, and Janet could go back to her Monday to Friday schedule. Janet did not want to work on Saturdays, so she suggested that Ms. Lewis ask one of the other workers take the Saturday shift instead. Ms. Lewis said “no,” and Janet quit the job. Can Janet get Unemployment benefits?
answer type: 
Incorrect
Yes
answer type: 
Correct
No
Correct! You can get unemployment benefits if you quit your job because your employer changes the job you do. Ms. Lewis changed Janet’s work schedule, and this caused a problem for Janet. But the change was only for a few weeks. It was not permanent. Jane
Sorry, the correct answer is 'No'. Explanation: You can get unemployment benefits if you quit your job because your employer changes the job you do. Ms. Lewis changed Janet’s work schedule, and this caused a problem for Janet. But the change was only for a few weeks. It was not permanent. Janet cannot qualify for Unemployment because a temporary schedule change is not a serious enough reason for her to quit her job.
Maria
3. Can Maria get Unemployment benefits?
Maria worked full time in a department store. When her husband became sick with cancer, he needed someone to take care of him all through the day. Maria asked her boss if she could take a three-month leave of absence. Her boss said “no.” Maria asked if she could work part-time instead of full time. Her boss said “no.” Maria quit her job because her husband needed her. There was no one else who could take care of him. Can Maria get Unemployment benefits?
answer type: 
Correct
Yes
answer type: 
Incorrect
No
Correct! You can get unemployment benefits if you quit your job to care for a sick family member. Maria tried to solve the problem by asking for a leave of absence or a part-time schedule. When this didn’t work she had to quit. She had no other choice. Th
Sorry, the correct answer is 'Yes'. Explanation: You can get unemployment benefits if you quit your job to care for a sick family member. Maria tried to solve the problem by asking for a leave of absence or a part-time schedule. When this didn’t work she had to quit. She had no other choice. This is a serious enough reason for her to quit her job.

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