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Can I get Unemployment Insurance if I quit my job?

 

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


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