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Can You Receive Unemployment If You Were Forced To Quit Your Job?

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If you've recently left your job due to hostile or illegal working conditions, you may be investigating options to stretch your household income until you can find a new position. Providing a temporary income to job-seekers is the primary purpose of unemployment insurance (UI) -- however, in some cases your UI claim may be denied if your employer alleges that you voluntarily quit your job. Read on to learn more about how quitting your job can affect your UI eligibility, as well as how you can appeal a denial of UI benefits if you believe you're otherwise entitled to this compensation. 

Are you eligible for UI if you quit your job?

In general, quitting a job will render you ineligible for UI. There are a few exceptions to this policy -- for example, some states will permit an individual to collect UI if he or she quit his or her job in order to follow a spouse who was forced to relocate for work. 

Another exception to this rule is the principle of "constructive discharge." This comes into play if you've essentially been forced to quit your job through no fault of your own. For example, if your hours have been significantly cut and your boss is unresponsive to repeated requests to increase your hours, or if your supervisor has asked you to perform an illegal activity (such as falsifying time records), you may be considered to have been "constructively discharged." In some cases, sexual harassment or the creation of a "hostile work environment" are also sufficient to establish constructive discharge. 

Because constructive discharge is considered a type of termination, rather than voluntary quitting, you should be able to receive UI if you can successfully establish that your specific situation involved a constructive discharge.

What happens if your UI claim is initially denied?

In many cases, particularly if an employer contests a UI claim, this claim will be denied. However, you do have the right to appeal -- and in most states, this appeal will be heard before an administrative law judge (ALJ).

If you're attempting to argue constructive discharge as a basis for your right to receive UI, you may want to engage the services of an attorney who handles UI cases. This attorney will be familiar with your state's laws governing UI and constructive discharge, and can help fit this law to the facts of your case. In many instances, the money you'll spend on legal counsel for this claim will be far outweighed by the UI compensation you'll receive once your claim has been approved. Click here for more information about unemployment hearings.