You Can (Sometimes) Collect Unemployment if you Quit a Job
In general, voluntarily quitting a job means that you will not be able to collect Oklahoma unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are in place in Oklahoma to provide help for those workers separated from employment through no fault of their own.
But what about work situations that are difficult, or unsafe, or against the law? How does a worker know where the line is?
Oklahoma law draws the line at the “good cause” standard. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving your job was so compelling that you had no other choice but to leave.
What Does Good Cause Mean Under the Law?
In Oklahoma, good cause for quitting a job is defined as conditions that may include a working condition that has changed to such an extent that it is harmful or adverse to a person’s health, safety, or morals. It can also mean that the employee is treated substantially unfairly by the employer or that the employer has created substantially difficult working conditions. Finally, it can also mean that the employee has elected to separate from work under a collective bargaining agreement or another employer plan that permits the employee to do so and the employer has agreed. Okla. Stat. 40 § 2-405.
Under this statute, here are some conditions that can give rise to a finding of good cause:
- unsafe working conditions (long hours with heavy machinery or driving; unsafe machinery; lack of safety equipment);
- injurious to health;
- job either causes illness or makes it worse;
- a harmful change in working conditions; or
- employer breached the original hiring terms Okla. Stat. 40 § 2-404.
All of these are valid reasons to quit a job, as long as the situation is severe enough to leave the employee with basically no choice but to quit. It is also required that the employee notify the employer of the issue in writing and allow enough time to have the situation corrected.
Other Valid Personal Reasons to Quit a Job
In one case heard by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, an employee was allowed benefits in a situation where she had requested time off to go on a humanitarian trip. Her request was approved, but the trip was then postponed by the organization she was to go with. She told her employer about the postponement.
Several weeks before her departure, her employer told her that her request for time off was declined due to taking too much time off. The employee still had vacation time available, money had been donated for the humanitarian cause and all of the reservations had been made. Good cause was shown and benefits were allowed. (17 AT 05589 BR)
This was deemed to be a valid reason to quit even though it was not one of the statutorily enumerated reasons. The employer failed to keep a promise to the employee that had a significant impact.
Benefits have also been allowed in a situation where an employee quit her job because she was no longer getting paid on a regular basis. She had not been paid for thee two months prior to quitting. (16 AT 07947 BR)
A hostile work environment can also be a valid reason for quitting. Benefits were allowed to an employee who quit because she was subjected to coworkers’ yelling and cursing. She talked to her supervisor and although the coworkers’ behavior would improve in the short term, the behaviors would resurface. (15 AT 08736 BR)
These cases are determined on a case-by-case basis. And the statutory list of valid reasons is not exhaustive. If you are facing a difficult working situation and considering quitting, you should seek consultation with a Tulsa employment lawyer.
Changes in Work Conditions or in Personal Conditions
Many of the valid personal reasons for leaving a job have been recognized on initial unemployment claims or on appeal prior to Board of Review hearings. Those do not result in a precedent setting record but nonetheless inform Oklahoma unemployment lawyers’ insight. Most substantial changes in employment conditions can be examined to see if they provide good cause for separation from a job.
If a new worksite is so far from home that transportation is unavailable, the employee might have good cause to quit the job and receive unemployment while they seek a new job. When hours or pay are reduced an employee might have good cause seek other work. A skilled worker whose duties are reduced to menial tasks might have good cause to leave the job while seeking skilled work consistent with the worker’s training and experience.
Medical limitations arising from either the employee’s condition or changes in job requirements can be good cause of leaving a job. If a worker can still work but only at a less physically demanding job separation might be for good cause, if the employer was asked but refused to accommodate the medical requirement.
Family requirements such as child care or even caring for an aging parent can be good cause of leaving a job, as long as the worker can pursue other work while meeting the new family care needs.
Free Legal Consultation: Unemployment Attorney in Tulsa
Any time you think you need to leave a job for personal reasons, your unemployment benefits are at risk. You have a right to collect jobless benefits but the way you represent your situation can make a difference between full benefits and no benefits. That is why it is important to seek the counsel of a knowledgeable Oklahoma unemployment attorney before you leave a job, or before you apply for unemployment. Oklahoma Unemployment Experts offers free consultations to those seeking unemployment benefits.
Let a skilled unemployment attorney answer your questions. My Tulsa office fields calls from throughout Oklahoma, and can represent you on appeal by telephone anywhere in the state. To set up your free consultation with the Oklahoma Unemployment Experts, call (918) 923-3776, or click the button below to sign up for a no-obligation unemployment consultation now.