Can I just walk away from my employer once my department is closed down and collect unemployment until I find a different job?

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Can I just walk away from my employer once my department is closed down and collect unemployment until I find a different job?

I work for a major home improvement retailer and they are eliminating my department. They said they will being moving us to a different department in the store. However, a big issue is the work schedule is much different and I would have to be working nights until 10-11pm.

Asked on April 14, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, as a general matter, if they are not terminating you but rather are moving you to a different department--the employer has full and free discretion as to what jobs or departments to assign employees to--you would not be able to collect unemployment if you refused the change.
A major change in hours to night hours *might* let you claim that you have been "constructively," or effectively, terminated, if the new, proposed hours are so different from what you had been working that no reasonable person who had taken a job with your original hours would work the new hours. Be warned though that constructive termination claims are very subjective and are not at all certain: it is possible that the person(s) at the unemployment office evaluating your claim, if you walk away from the job, will conclude that this change in shift, even if undesirable, is not so unreasonable as to amount to be effectively fired; in that case, you'd be denied unemployment. You may be best off taking the position and just looking to find a new job as quickly as possible.


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