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Can You Get Unemployment if You Quit?

Dena Standley | February 24, 2023

Dena Standley
Legal Expert, Paralegal
Dena Standley, BA

Dena Standley is a seasoned paralegal with more than 20 years of experience in legal research and writing, having received a certification as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal from Southern Technical College.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Unemployment is not a laughing matter. Luckily, you can find government help if you find yourself unemployed.

Summary: Applying for unemployment benefits may come to mind quickly if you are fired. But you may also qualify for the payout even if the decision to resign was yours. Whether you are eligible depends on why you quit. It could be the employer's fault or personal safety reasons, but the department must investigate your claims before approval.

Unemployment benefits temporarily cover a portion of your wages if you lose work. The insurance typically covers employees who were laid off or furloughed.

But what if you quit? You could still receive unemployment provided the state considers your reason for leaving “good cause.” A good cause for quitting means that you separated from the employer for valid reasons and that the cause could not be resolved with the employer.

Although unemployment insurance laws vary by state, Americans across the country can expect the general rules to apply. This article looks at situations when you may be eligible for unemployment upon quitting.

When can I get unemployment benefits if I quit?

The Unemployment Insurance (UI) application seems straightforward on paper. You must meet the basic requirements, such as the minimum residence period, base period minimum earnings, and ability to work.

However, questions arise that may require you to have additional information. The following are some cases when you may receive unemployment after quitting.

Constructive discharge

Constructive discharge happens when your employer “fires” you without saying they are firing you. For example, an employer may decide that since they have no legal reason to fire you, they will make your life miserable until you, in effect, quit.

You may be eligible for unemployment in your state if you prove that the resignation was involuntary.


Discrimination in the workplace takes many forms. You may suffer injustice because of gender, race, culture, or disability. If your employer treats you differently and you quit, you can apply for UI.

Below is an example.

Example: Maria's employer categorically set the rule that Latin Americans could never earn more than a predetermined amount per hour. When Maria (Latin American) found out, she confronted the employer. Her employer admitted that was the law and that she was welcome to quit if she disagreed. So Maria quit. Maria successfully applied for unemployment because the department found that she was a victim of discrimination.

Significant pay/hour cut

An employer can reduce your hourly pay or work hours so drastically that it becomes unsustainable. The new pay may cover less than your recurring expenses. If a pay cut or hours cut compels you to resign, your state department will consider your claim application.

Illness or disability

You may successfully claim unemployment if you fall seriously ill or become disabled. Sometimes a family member becomes so incapacitated that you must leave work to care for them. In such a situation, quitting does not disqualify you from unemployment benefits.

Note that disability can qualify you for additional help.

A new job

Quitting work because you are starting another one does not disqualify you. However, the department will need proof that the job you hoped to take was not in question at the time of your resignation.

So if you quit before finding work, you won't qualify. Similarly, employees who separate in search of a more fulfilling or to advance their careers do not qualify for unemployment. But if a different company had offered you a job and convinced you that you were as good as hired only to leave you hanging, you can claim unemployment.

Changes in the onsite work location

If you have to work onsite and your employer moves the premises to an inaccessible place, you can resign and still receive unemployment.

Illegal practices

Illegal practices such as potential food and drug hazard and financial conduct are “good causes” to quit. Your state is unlikely to disqualify you for unemployment.

Religious and moral reasons

You may quit if your work changes so much it infringes on your moral and religious convictions.

Personal safety

You or a dependent in your household may need to relocate because of domestic abuse or stalking. That's a good enough reason to receive unemployment.

Depending on your state, there are additional reasons for claiming unemployment if you quit. Here is a summary for Washington state.

Read more: Unemployed and in debt?

The information you submit when claiming unemployment includes your previous employers' names and contact. This information is vital if you quit because the department will want to corroborate your claims.

The department may deny your application if the employer denies the accusations or you cannot prove them. You are always free to appeal the decision if you feel it is unfair.

To get unemployment after quitting, your cause for separation should be more than just sensible. It must be deemed acceptable in your state.

Respond to debt collectors if you fall into debt as a result of unemployment

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  • File a Motion to Compel Arbitration into your debt collection court case. If you’re being sued for credit card debt, check your card agreement for an arbitration clause. If granted, this will force the case out of court and into arbitration, a much more fair and accessible way for debtors and debt collectors to resolve a dispute.

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