When you find yourself working in a hostile work environment, it is possible to collect unemployment benefits. However, getting approved for benefits is not always a simple process. You must be able to prove that you are not at-fault for your job loss. A licensed psychologist can help prove your case.
The Psychologist's Role
Psychologists are trained to identify issues that are negatively affecting your psychological well-being. During a counseling session, if a psychologist concludes that a hostile work environment is contributing to the demise of your mental health, she has the power to speak up on your behalf. If the psychologist recommends that you not do any work at all for a prolonged period of time, your chances of collecting unemployment are very slim. To get benefits, you must be able and available to work.
The psychologist does not have the power to put you on unemployment benefits. That decision is determined by your state's unemployment agency. However, what the psychologist can do is create medical documentation indicating how the stresses of working in a hostile environment are affecting your mental health. You can even ask the psychologist to write a doctor's note for you to give to the employer.
The Next Steps
Once you have medical documentation from your psychologist, make a copy for your own records. Give the employer a copy to place into your personnel file. Several things can happen at this point. The employer may address and correct the hostile work environment, she may choose to completely relieve you of your employment with the company, or you may choose to resign from the job. As long as you continue working full-time hours, you can't collect unemployment benefits. If you decide to quit, you must have proof that you did everything in your power to resolve the issue. Quitting must be a last resort. Otherwise, you may not receive benefits.
The Ultimate Decision
If you are fired from the job or if you choose to resign, apply for unemployment benefits through your local unemployment agency. During the application process, let the agency know your reason for unemployment is due to health reasons. Provide documentation from your psychologist stating how the hostile work environment was affecting your psychological or mental well-being. Provide documentation showing you did everything in your power to resolve the matter. Wait to hear whether or not you are approved to collect benefits. If you are denied benefits, you have a right to appeal the denial through a formal hearing process.
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