January 2018 Briefly: An Unemployment Case Analysis

January 18, 2018 Peg Elofson

quit with good cause

Unemployment Claims Review: Did the claimant quit with good cause?

Background

The claimant resigned after a meeting regarding her work performance. She was allowed benefits upon a finding that she quit with good cause. The employer appealed, and a hearing was scheduled before an administrative law judge.

At the Hearing

The Claimant’s Evidence: The claimant, an office worker, quit work due to job stress and health reasons.  She testified that she felt unable to perform all of her job duties, and that the employer refused to provide her with support to complete her duties.  The claimant testified that the job stress she was experiencing was causing her to lose sleep.  The claimant testified that she saw her doctor about her health, and her doctor prescribed sleep medication but did not advise her to leave her job.

The Employer’s Evidence:  The employer testified that the claimant made no formal complaints about her work prior to leaving, and did not inform the employer about any health issues she was experiencing.  The claimant quit following a meeting about her job performance.  The employer informed the claimant during that meeting that she must improve some aspects of her job performance and that she was being assigned a new supervisor.  There were no plans to discharge her.  The claimant told the employer during that meeting that she could “no longer do” the work and was leaving her employment.  If the claimant had made a complaint and informed the employer that her working conditions were affecting her health, the employer would have investigated her concerns and responded appropriately.

The Hearing Decision

The administrative law judge (ALJ) found that the claimant quit without good cause and she was disqualified from benefits. The ALJ found that the claimant failed to allow the employer the opportunity to address any concerns she had prior to leaving.  That failure negated any good cause she might have had to leave her employment.  The claimant appealed, arguing that the lack of support from her employer and her health issues were sufficient to rise to the level of good cause and an award of benefits.  The claimant supplied additional evidence in her appeal which was not presented to the ALJ.

The Board of Review Decision

The Board of Review (Board) agreed with the ALJ’s Decision and the claimant remained disqualified.  They  refused to consider the additional evidence supplied by the claimant because the Hearing was the final opportunity for the parties to present evidence in support of their positions.  The Board found that the ALJ’s Decision was fully supported by the facts and the law, and the claimant remained disqualified from benefits.                                                                                                           

Takeaways

  1. Good cause to leave work might not be found if the claimant does not inform the employer of any concerns prior to leaving work. Unless the reason for leaving would have compelled a reasonable person to leave work immediately, states will generally not find good cause for leaving work unless a claimant has informed the employer of any work-related concerns and given the employer the opportunity to address them.  Be prepared to prove that the claimant was aware of any complaint procedures, and that the claimant failed to use them.  If the claimant had options available to her which were less severe than becoming unemployed, states could deny benefits.
  2. The Board of Review is charged with determining whether the Administrative Law Judge made any errors which would require a reversal of a Decision. It is the ALJ’s responsibility to hear the testimony of the witnesses, examine the evidence, make findings of fact, and make a decision based on the hearing record.  The Board’s decision is generally not whether the claimant should be allowed benefits, but whether the law requires a different decision than that of the ALJ.  Any evidence in your possession that is not presented at the hearing may not be considered in an appeal.  If you were prevented from presenting evidence, that evidence might be allowed if you can prove that the evidence was unavailable and it would have an impact on the case.  *A few states will take evidence at a Board of Review hearing.  Please contact your unemployment consultant with questions about your state.

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