As is often the case with unemployment benefits, it depends on the circumstances. In Wisconsin, the presumption is that if an employee quits his job, he is not entitled to unemployment insurance benefits. However, there are some exceptions. As discussed in a previous post, an employee who attempts to protect his job and still must quit because he is charged with caring for a sick relative can qualify for benefits.
There are other exceptions as well. Wisconsin employees who quit their jobs and apply for benefits are subjected to the “good cause” analysis. The inquiry is whether the employee quit for good cause attributable to the employer. The burden is on the employee to establish to the state’s unemployment division that the employer’s actions or inactions necessitated a quit. The employee doesn’t necessarily need to prove bad faith on the part of the employer, but may meet his burden by showing that a condition, job duty, or situation at work falls within the employer’s control, and quitting is a reasonable reaction to that employer imposed situation.
Perhaps the most common instance of a quit resulting in the payment of unemployment benefits is the demotion exception. If an employee is demoted to a job with substantially less favorable pay (typically a 20% cut in compensation), it has been found to be a reasonable basis for quitting, which results in the payment of unemployment benefits. Similarly, if an employee is transferred to a job far from home, on a different shift, or with substantially different duties, he may have good cause to quit. A transfer to a location 50 miles from home or more is almost always found to be good cause to quit, as is a transfer to third shift. Other common circumstances permitting benefits payments include situations where the employee quits because the employer violates employment laws including wage laws, discrimination laws, the FMLA, and harassment laws.
Because the quit test involves analyzing whether an employee’s decision to quit was reasonable under the circumstances, there are an infinite number of circumstances under which an employee may quit and be permitted the payment of unemployment benefits. What’s the bottom line? If the employee was reasonable to quit due to some circumstance that is the fault of the employer, he is permitted unemployment insurance.
If you have questions about whether you should qualify for unemployment benefits, please contact me at: [email protected]
Attorney Nicholas M. McLeod is an associate attorney with Alan C. Olson & Associates, S.C.