This week, we are introducing a new series called “Unemployment Myth Busters.” There are a lot of common misconceptions about how unemployment works and who is eligible to collect unemployment. We will tackle these one at a time and debunk some of the most common falsehoods related to unemployment.

Myth: When an employee quits voluntarily, they are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

It is commonly believed that employees who voluntarily quit their jobs are not eligible to collect unemployment benefits. The truth is that it depends greatly on the reason they quit.

The unemployment program was created to provide bridge income to people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. That seems simple enough, right? Well, as the unemployment program has evolved, it has become more and more complicated. The definition of eligibility, or whether a claimant lost their job “through no fault of their own” has become similarly complex.

For the purposes of unemployment, if an employee quits their job for “compelling” reasons, they are considered to be unemployed through no fault of their own, and therefore eligible for unemployment. What qualifies as a compelling reason, you ask? As with most unemployment rules, this varies state by state. Let’s look at some of the more common scenarios.

A worker quits their job because their spouse/parents/other household member is relocating – Some states have a provision in their law saying that if a person had to quit their job to relocate with a spouse or family member, they are considered to have quit for a compelling reason (certain states allow for this only in the specific case that an employee quit to move with a military spouse).

A worker quits their job to escape domestic violence – Several states recognize this as a compelling reason to voluntarily leave employment.

A worker quits due to on-the-job harassment or mistreatment – Generally, in this scenario, the claimant must show that they reported the issue to the employer and gave the employer an opportunity to remedy the situation before quitting.

A worker quits after their hours or pay are reduced – Most states will consider a reduction in hours and/or pay to be a material change in the hiring agreement and a compelling reason to quit a job.

As you can see from the examples above, the “myth” that an employee who quits voluntarily is not ever going to be eligible to draw unemployment benefits against their former employer is simply not correct. If you’re curious about the compelling quit regulations in a specific state, our experts are here to help with in-depth knowledge of state-specific unemployment laws.