If I resign due to the commute, can I collect unemployment?

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If I resign due to the commute, can I collect unemployment?

I accepted a job with an 85 mile commute each way after collecting unemployment several months. I immediately put my house up for sale but 16 weeks later it has not sold. When hired I was told I could “set my own hours and there are some evening meetings” but in reality I’m expected be in from 8:30 am plus evening meetings several nights each week and don’t get home until 11 pm or midnight regularly. The job is salary exempt. I’m a single parent with a 13 year old at home and cannot continue these hours and commute. I’m actively applying for jobs but would I qualify for unemployment?

Asked on August 10, 2011 North Carolina

Answers:

L.P., Member, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The qualifications and requirements for collecting unemployment vary from state to state.  Even though most states have their own requirements, most states agree that if you voluntarily quit your job than you are considered ineligible for unemployment benefits. 

Even though you do not view it as voluntarily leaving your job because of your commute and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the delays on selling your house, technically it was still your decision to not work there anymore.  You can try to view it this way, if you did not leave the position due to the commute and the change in hours, would you still have had a position available for you at work the next day?  If so, it was your decision to no longer work there. 

In most states, including yours, unemployment benefits are intended and reserved for individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  Other individuals who would be excluded would be those who resigned due to problems with the amount they were paid, the hours were too tough to work, or that they don’t fit their schedule.  However, if there was a hostile work environment or some type of threat to your health or safety and you were forced to resign, then you may be able to still collect unemployment benefits.   But if you quit on your own accord, then unemployment benefits are not available to you.  You can check with your state’s labor department, because some states have a waiting period that you cannot collect because it is considered your own fault that you are unemployed, and then they allow you to collect after that waiting period is completed. 

 

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you will probably not be able to collect unemployment if yoiu quit. The problem is that the job has not moved--you accepted a position that was 85 miles away and its still 85 miles away--nothing changed from the job you accepted. (Non-employment factors, such as your inability to sell your home, are unfortunately not relevant to this discussion.) If the company had moved or had transfered you--for example, say you'd started working 15 miles away, then they relocated you to an 85-mile-away location--that would be different; that might give you grounds to claim that you were constructively or effectively fired, by having your job changed so you could no longer do it. However, when the job is now in the same location as it was when you accepted it, you cannot claim constructive termination; if you leave, it will be voluntary.


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