Penalty on Unemployment Benefits for Quitting Your Job

Unemployment benefits vary by state, but most states have similar rules when it comes to quitting a job. If you voluntarily quit your job without “good cause,” you can be denied unemployment benefits. However, there are reasons that you might quit your job that would still allow you to collect your benefits. If you’re considering quitting, and you suspect you have good cause or a valid reason, it’s best to contact an attorney or an unemployment office first to understand your rights.

Good Cause

Your quitting your job may be considered for “good cause” when your problems with the job can be attributed to your employer. This includes issues such as unsafe working conditions, but also often includes a change in working conditions that makes them harmful. For instance, being asked to work longer hours, or having your pay cut. These elements change the original agreement you had when you signed on for the job, and if they cause you harm -- inability to pay bills, for example -- it may be considered good cause. If your employer breaks your original contract, this may also be considered good cause. An example of this would be if your contract stipulates that you are to receive a pay raise after a particular length of employment and your employer does not provide one.

Illness and Disability

If you have to quit your job because a spouse, child or parent is ill or disabled and requires your care, you may still be able to collect benefits. However, you are required to still be available for work. For instance, if you could work different hours, but if your employer cannot change your hours, you are often permitted to quit to seek a job within the hours you are available. If you are not available to work any hours, you can’t collect benefits.

Transportation and Location

There are location-based reasons that you might quit your job. If your spouse gets a new job and you move with him, it may make it impossible for you to commute, or you could lose your transportation and be unable to get to and from work in any other reasonable way. Generally, both of these are acceptable reasons to quit and seek a closer place of employment.

Domestic Violence

It is also valid to leave your job to protect yourself, your children, your spouse or your parents from domestic violence. If you must move, or an abusive individual is aware of where you work, it usually constitutes a valid reason for quitting. However, some states may require you to make a “reasonable effort” to keep your job. This can include asking your employer for a transfer, or taking a leave of absence.

Other Penalties

In addition to the penalties on your unemployment benefits, quitting a job without showing good cause can also incur penalties on state programs such as food stamps and welfare cash assistance. In some cases benefits may be canceled or you may receive fewer benefits, and it may disqualify you from filing for extensions to your benefits.

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