Layoffs and unemployment rose as the US economy slowed in August 2022, MarketWatch reported. Unemployment benefit numbers rose during the summer months of 2022, and 260,000 people filed for unemployment at the end of July.
But it’s not just laid-off workers who want unemployment benefits. People who have recently resigned can also apply for unemployment benefits. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.2 million Americans quit their jobs as of June 2022.
If you recently quit your job and are wondering if you are entitled to unemployment benefits, an employment lawyer is here to answer your questions.
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Can you become unemployed if you quit?
In general, unemployment insurance is only available to those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own, according to the USAGov. This can sometimes refer to layoffs or company downsizing.
But according to National Employment Law Project attorney Jenna Gerry, if you quit, there are ways you can become unemployed.
“The key to receiving unemployment insurance and being eligible to quit is whether you had a good reason to quit that job,” Gerry told USA TODAY. “Many states will (ask), ‘Would a sane person in your situation have stayed put?'”
These “tasks for good reason” vary from state to state. Some allow unemployment benefits for domestic violence, harassment, or sexual assault.
The Unemployment Law Project lists these categories for good causes that could result in you becoming unemployed:
- Accepted a new job
- Illness or disability of you or a family member
- Moving with spouse as part of mandatory military transfer
- Protection from domestic violence or stalking situation
- pay cut
- hours shortened
- Changes in the workplace or commuting
- Safety Concerns in the Workplace
- Illegal Activities in the Workplace
- Modification of work that violates religious beliefs or moral beliefs
“If there are violations related to health and safety at work and you’ve reported them and your employer hasn’t done anything about it, in most cases you’re eligible for unemployment insurance for that reason,” says Gerry.
With major layoffs early in the coronavirus pandemic, the US government enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to expand unemployment insurance state by state. This change included workers who were not normally eligible for unemployment. COVID-19 Extended Federal Unemployment Benefit is no longer active.
What are unemployment benefits?
“Employers pay into (unemployment insurance) on behalf of an employee,” says Gerry. “So
When they pay employees, they pay into this program, which allows workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own to receive partial wage replacement while they experience unemployment.”
Each state offers its own unemployment insurance program. Unemployment insurance recipients must report their benefits as income on their tax returns.
There are also a variety of educational and training programs available for free or at low cost. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act provides retraining funds for laid-off workers. The trade adjustment assistance is intended for those whose job losses coincided with an increase in foreign imports or production outside the United States. The Dislocated Worker/Rapid Response program shares resources for job rotation.
Other unemployment benefit programs include disability insurance, compensation for work-related illness or injury, and temporary assistance for needy families.
Unemployed people continue to have access to health care benefits under COBRA, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. According to DOL, you are eligible for continued insurance if you are a qualified beneficiary, meaning you are covered by a group sickness plan during or before you lose your job.
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How to register as unemployed
You must apply to your state for unemployment. Many require you to submit online, but some also use mail-in applications or phone claims.
You must state the reason for your unemployment when you submit your application online. Gerry suggests choosing an “other” or writing option, which you can use to express that it was a good reason to quit. Honesty is important in this application, emphasized Gerry.
It is likely that the office will contact you with more information about the nature of your unemployment status. They will also notify your previous employer that you submitted to confirm your argument.
“If the reason your employer gives is different than the reason you gave when you first applied, it can potentially lead to an initial denial of benefits,” explains Gerry. “And in that case you would then have to appeal to show that it was really a good cause to stop.”
Most notably, Gerry suggested applying for unemployment benefits even if you’re not sure if you qualify.
“There’s no harm in applying and being rejected, but there’s no harm in just never applying,” she says.