Boing! Boing!
December 6, 2004 7:15 PM   Subscribe

The paychecks from my employer are bouncing. I live hand to mouth. Does that qualify me for unemployment in California? If I walk away from the company, does that mean I have quit and I am ineligible? Or am I laid off and eligible for benefits? The CA website is next to useless, and the phone number is consistently "busy" with a pre-recorded message stating that due to the volume of claims and calls, we need to try and call back later. What would you do?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
Several of my friends and I have gone through the same situation and my understanding is that as long as you are accepting IOUs for your work you are not eligible for unemployment. If you quit because you aren't getting paid that is a valid reason to get unemployment but be prepared for your employer to be a jerk and contest it anyway. (If you want to go the quit route I would talk to them and ask them to lay you off so there is no problem there.)

One big warning , I had a friend who filled for unemployment after his sleazy boss stopped even pretending to pay him, and discovered that said boss hadn't been paying into the unemployment system. Yes, that is illegal, but hey. The friend did eventually get his unemployment money, but it was a big hassle.
posted by aspo at 7:32 PM on December 6, 2004

I've been there, it totally sucks. You are not qualified for unemployment. You cannot quit and still qualify for unemployment. The only option you have is to file a claim with the state for unpaid wages. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn very slowly. In the meantime, look for another job.
posted by jjg at 7:36 PM on December 6, 2004

I experienced this same situation a while back. Others give good advice...My only addition: the EDD phone line is atrocious. Try going in to your local office instead. You can talk to a person immediately and get to the bottom of your problem much quicker. Good luck!
posted by tinamonster at 7:51 PM on December 6, 2004

I don't have any experience with this particular situation, but maybe a good cop/bad cop approach would work. First, you have to threaten him with something. This could be filing a claim with the state (as jjg suggests), filing a suit in civil court, organizing your fellow employees in some sort of strike or work slow down or mass walk-off action, publishing info about the companies financial woes on the internet, or anything else you can think of. As long as it's legal and will scare your employer, it'll work. Now, you don't have to actually go through with it; you just have to threaten to and make the threat convincing. Once you're sure he's worried, offer to hold off provided he agrees to lay you off and otherwise smooth the way for you to collect unemployment.

I don't know whether you've ever been in serious debt, but I can tell you from personal experience; you pay off the person/entity that scares you the most at the moment and you tell everyone else to go piss in a corner. My guess is that he won't make any concessions to you unless he's more scared of you than he is of his other creditors.
posted by Clay201 at 10:15 PM on December 6, 2004

1) Aspo says: "If you quit because you aren't getting paid that is a valid reason to get unemployment..."

2) jjg says: "You cannot quit and still qualify for unemployment."

Well, I've had friends who have quit and still qualified for unemployment, so I don't think #2 is correct. Can someone clarify if #1 is correct?
posted by rajbot at 12:39 AM on December 7, 2004

It's all about the arbitrator or whatever you want to call him and how you and the employer present the case. In a case where unemployment is not clear-cut (ie, you want it but (former) employer does not want to pay out), basically you have to have a hearing to determine wether or not you're eligible for unemployment. As we see here- as in most cases- it is largely contingent upon who happens to oversee your claim.
posted by jmd82 at 12:44 AM on December 7, 2004

The state unemployment site says that they will have to investigate to determine whether you qualify if you quit your job. So yeah, it's possible to get unemployment if you quit, but you don't automatically qualify the way you would if you were laid off.
posted by jjg at 8:55 AM on December 7, 2004

Don't call the unemployment office on a Monday or a Tuesday. It's easier to get through on a Wednesday or Thursday.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:41 AM on December 7, 2004

I had an employer that did that. It was a attorney with his own practice which made things kind of personal. After the third time this happened and I realized that guilt was not enough, I asked him to escort me to the bank while I cashed his checks or hinted I would be happy to accept cash. Since he was already hanging on to his license to practice by his finger nails, I had all sorts of leverage. Watching him squirm at the cashier's window every other Friday almost made up for the shit he put me through on a daily basis. First paralegal job in small town Wisconsin . . . good times, good times.

So, if you want to keep working at this job and if you have any leverage, ask for cash, cashier's check, or an escort to the bank. If not, gain some leverage by filing [or even threatening to file] a claim and establishing a judicial judgment. This is a pretty routine matter to handle via small claims court (ie, no need to hire a lawyer). You can parlay your judgment into a lien on his/her/the corporation's assets which gives you all sorts of nifty privileges. At the worst, you'll be assured a place in line when the bankruptcy payouts begin. Alternate worst case is you get laid off/fired which hooks you up with unemployment benefits and you still hold the judgment for back wages. At best your employer realizes it is a good idea to come up with your wages in a timely manner. Like it was mentioned upthread, the most feared creditor is the one that gets paid first. IANAL, YMMV, &c
posted by Fezboy! at 12:44 PM on December 7, 2004

make sure he's still paying your health insurance if you've got benefits, if not, get some.

i had a nice little surprise when i went to the emergency room twice a couple years ago, only to find later that my boss didn't pay our premiums that month.

ended up costing me three grand.

that was for two 15 minute visits and an x-ray.

if something serious goes down, you might end up way in debt.
posted by fishfucker at 1:03 PM on December 7, 2004

I second the go to the local office rather than phoning. Yes you'll probably have to wait in line but at least there is a line.
posted by Mitheral at 1:38 PM on December 7, 2004

« Older looking for the old "Typewriter" widget   |   Work Phone Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.