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Can I collect unemployment if I quit my job to care for a sick relative?

In Wisconsin, a fairly recent amendment to the unemployment insurance law may allow employees to collect benefits if forced to quit a job to care for sick family member.

The general rule, with several exceptions, is that an employee is not entitled to collect unemployment insurance benefits if he quits his job. However, if an employee quits to provide care for a family member with a "verified illness or disability", which reasonably necessitates care for longer than the employer is willing to grant leave, the employee may quit and collect benefits. If an employee quits a job for any reason and attempts to collect unemployment benefits, he may expect to meet resistance from the state investigator charged with determining eligibility.

In order to qualify for benefits in this situation, the employee must demonstrate that the family member requiring care is a spouse, parent, child, or person related by blood or adoption. Most notably, this law does not include domestic partners, persons engaged to be married, or in-laws. The employee also must demonstrate that he requested leave, but the employer was unwilling to provide leave for the period of time requested. Finally, the employee must demonstrate that the "verified illness or disability" required the leave. This language suggests a diagnosis and/or treatment by a healthcare provider, and the ability to prove it to the unemployment division.

In order to protect themselves, employees should be proactive with their employers, and memorialize requests for leave from the employer in writing. Employees should also be sure to collect documentation from a healthcare provider or physician, preferably stating that the individual requires their care.

If you have questions about whether you should qualify for benefits, please contact me.

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Attorney Nicholas M. McLeod is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C. If you have questions about unemployment insurance, please contact him at: nmcleod@employee-advocates.com

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