Are you disqualified from unemployment compensation if you are fired because you cannot work 7 days per week?

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Are you disqualified from unemployment compensation if you are fired because you cannot work 7 days per week?

Let’s say you have worked for an employer 11 years, and up to now the job entailed working 5 days per week, sometimes 6 during busy times. Suddenly employer demands you work 7 days per week. After explaining you cannot do that and not showing up on Sunday, employer terminates you. How does the unemployment people view this? Fault of employee or employer? If employee, then any employer with any brains could simply make life miserable enough for a worker and subsequently get rid of them without paying any unemployment claim.

Asked on August 11, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

There is no hard and fast answer: it would be judged on a case-by-case basis when the employee applies for unemployment benefits. Generally, being terminated for not showing up to work is considered termination "for cause"--absenteeism--and therefore grounds to not receive unemployment benefits. But your question posits that 7 days/week is not the employee's normal working hours in the sense of being the hours that he/she "signed up for" in taking the job, but rather are additional, unreasonable hours added after the fact. An argument can be made that increasing hours beyond what the employee had effectively  agreed to work by a factor of 40% would constitute "constructive termination"--being forced out by conditions that an objectively reasonable person would find unreasonable--akin to how it is constructive termination (and the employee can get unemployment) if his/her salary/wages were cut by a third or more and he/she quit, or he/she was transferred to a new location resulting in a two or more hour each commute (when previously it had been, say, 30 minutes). So there are two different paradigms at work here--absenteeism, which is termination for cause and no unemployment; and constructive termination, or leaving due to objectively intolerable conditions, which allows resignation while receiving unemployment. The unemployment office would have to consider the facts of the situation and judge which paradigm it is more like in the individual case.


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