If my employer has cut my annual salary by 35% but has not changed job responsibilities, am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I quit?

Job duties require use of personal vehicle and fuel. New pay rate of $500 makes continuing current job responsibilities financially infeasible. I recently became eligible for vacation time/pay.Employer is attempting to pay vacation time at the new, lesser, pay rate. Employer is failing to follow policy outlined in employee handbook. Employer has failed to provide requested new hire documents outlining pay structure. Current Pay after taxes would be less than unemployment pay if eligible. I would also not be incurring travel expenses, thus lessening the financial burden. I am having trouble getting advise from the VA unemployment commission.

Asked on September 22, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

You are likely, but not guaranteed, to be eligible for unemployment benefits. An employee can be "constructively terminated"--effectively fired--and be eligible for UI if his/her job is made infeasible, undoable, or not reasonable in an objective way, such as by a significant pay cut or unsupportable increase in travel time due to transfer to a distant location. Generally, a one third or more cut in salary would be enough to qualify as constructive termination: it is not reasonable for someone to keep working after such a large cut.
That said, while the criteria you will point to (the pay cut) is objective, there is a subjective, or subject to personal judgment, element to determining when you have been constructively terminated: since there is not a hard-and-fast rule in the law about how much pay cut is too much, it is up to the labor dept./unemployment examiner to decide if this cut is so large as to qualify as constructive termination. It is so large that is likely to do so, but because there is no hard-and-fast or "bright line" rule, it is possible that whomever handles your application will rule against you.


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