Quitting your job doesn't always disqualify you for unemployment benefits. Some states offer leeway for people who quit their jobs under extenuating circumstances, such as workplace bullying or domestic violence. Before quitting your job, do some research on your state's requirements so that you'll know whether you have a good chance of filing a successful unemployment claim.
Determine whether your state allows workers to claim unemployment if they quit their jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor states that unemployment benefits are for people who are lose their jobs "through no fault of their own," but states often recognize that extenuating circumstances can force people to quit their jobs. Check your state's unemployment website for a list of circumstances where quitting doesn't disqualify you for benefits.
Talk to your employer. Businesses pay for unemployment insurance, and when former employees receive unemployment benefits, the employer's rates can go up. This can be an incentive for your employer to contest your benefits. If your employer opposes your benefits claim, you are in for weeks, maybe months, of interviews and appeals. Sometimes this can't be avoided, particularly if you are leaving due to a workplace problem. But if you are leaving for non-work related reasons, such as domestic violence concerns, the need to provide care for a sick family member or following a military spouse, tell your employer why you are leaving and that you plan to file for benefits. Knowing that your employer won't contest your claim can reduce your stress level significantly.
Apply for unemployment benefits after you quit. The U.S. Department of Labor recommends doing this as soon as possible.
Gather documentation of your reason for quitting. This may include medical records, written communications, contracts or information from your employee handbook. Former coworkers and others may be willing to act as witnesses for you, as well. Get their contact information so that you, or your unemployment caseworker, can easily get in touch with them.
Attend any telephone or in-person hearings, meetings or interviews necessary to complete your case. Once you file your claim, you will get notification, often a letter, telling you that you are scheduled for an interview or meeting.
File your weekly or biweekly unemployment claims as you normally would, even if your case is in review. Once your state approves your case, you'll receive your back and current benefit money.
- Nolo.com: Unemployment Benefits: What If You Quit?
- Nolo.com: Denied Unemployment Benefits: The Appeal Process
- Connecticut Department of Labor: Claimant's Guide to the Appeals Process
- California Employment Development Department: FAQ Eligibility
- US Department of Labor: State Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- Inc.com: How to Contest an Unemployment Claim
- Seek legal help if your case is complicated or if the state turns down your application for benefits. If you can't afford a lawyer, contact the Legal Aid office in your area for help. Some states, such as Illinois, provide limited legal assistance to people with contested unemployment claims through a third-party law firm under contract to the state. Ask your state's unemployment agency if it provides this service.
- It can take a while, perhaps two weeks, for the state to process your claim. Be sure you have enough savings to meet your needs during processing and any appeals.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.