Layoffs and unemployment were on the rise as the U.S. economy slowed in August of 2022, MarketWatch reported. Unemployment benefit numbers were climbing in the summer months of 2022, and 260,000 people applied for unemployment at the end of July.
But laid-off employees aren’t the only ones looking to collect unemployment benefits. Individuals who recently quit may also seek a jobless claim. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs in June of 2022.
If you’ve recently quit your job and are wondering if you qualify for unemployment benefits, an employment attorney is here to answer your questions.
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Can you get unemployment if you quit?
Generally, unemployment insurance is only available only to those who lost their job through no fault of their own, USAGov states. This can sometimes refer to layoffs or company downsizing.
But according to National Employment Law Project staff attorney Jenna Gerry, there are ways to get unemployment if you quit.
“The key to collecting unemployment insurance, and whether you’re eligible to quit, is whether you had a good cause to quit that job,” Gerry told USA TODAY. “A lot of states will (ask), ‘Would a reasonable person in your situation have stayed at the job?’”
These “good cause quits” vary from state to state. Some allow unemployment eligibility for domestic violence, harassment or sexual assault.
The Unemployment Law Project lists these good cause categories that might land you eligible for unemployment:
- Accepted a new job
- Illness or disability of yourself or a family member
- Relocation with spouse as part of a mandatory military transfer
- Protection from domestic violence or stalking situation
- Pay cut
- Hours cut
- Worksite or commuting changes
- Worksite safety concerns
- Illegal activities in the workplace
- Change in work that violates religious convictions or moral beliefs
“If there are health and safety related violations at work and you reported them and your employer has done nothing about them, then in most places you are entitled to unemployment insurance for that reason,” Gerry says.
With major layoffs at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to expand state-to-state unemployment insurance. This change included workers who were not typically eligible for unemployment. COVID-19 extended unemployment benefits from the federal government are no longer active.
What are unemployment benefits?
“Employers pay into (unemployment insurance) on an employee’s behalf,” Gerry says. “So
when they pay employees, they pay into this program that allows workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own to collect partial wage replacement, while they experience bouts of unemployment.”
Each state offers its own unemployment insurance program. Recipients of unemployment insurance must report their benefits as income on tax returns.
There are also a variety of education and training programs offered for free or at a low cost. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides retraining funding for laid-off workers. The Trade Adjustment Assistance is for those whose job loss coincided with an increase in foreign imports or production outside of the U.S. The Dislocated Worker/Rapid Response program shares resources for job transition.
Other unemployment benefit programs include disability insurance, compensation for illness or injury on the job and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Unemployed individuals can also continue access to health benefits under COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. According to the DOL, you are eligible for continuation coverage if you’re a qualified beneficiary, meaning you’re covered by a group health plan during or before the event of your job loss.
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How do you apply for unemployment?
You’ll need to apply for unemployment through your state. Many require you to file online, but some utilize mail-in applications or phone claims as well.
You’re required to share the reason for your unemployment when filing your claim online. Gerry suggests choosing an “other” or write-in option that allows you to express that it was a good cause quit. Honesty is important on this application, Gerry stressed.
It’s likely the office will reach out to get further information on the nature of your unemployment status. They also will notify your past employer that you’ve filed to confirm your reasoning.
“If the reason your employer gives is different than the reason you gave on your initial application, that could potentially lead to an initial denial of benefits,” Gerry explains. “And in that case, then you would have to appeal to show that, no, this really was a good cause quit.”
Above all, Gerry suggested applying for unemployment benefits even if you’re not sure you qualify.
“There’s no harm in applying and being denied, but there is if you just never apply,” she says.