Don't make me deal with them again!
August 27, 2010 9:07 AM   Subscribe

I know you're not my lawyer, but how does unemployment insurance work?

in February, I was laid off from a job. I filed for unemployment at the time, served my waiting week, and got one check. Then, fortunately, I got a new job, and stopped claiming.

Fast forward to yesterday, when I quit my new job because it turned out to be a complete nightmare that was ruining my life (which is not really an exaggeration, sadly). I have never quit a job without having a new job to go to before, and I don't have a lot of savings so I'm kinda freaked out right now.

I know when a person quits a job as opposed to getting laid off it can be a bit tricky to get unemployment. As I understand unemployment in my state (Oregon), a claim remains open for a year from the time it was started.

If I were to restart my unemployment claim from February, would that claim go against company A, against whom I claimed in the first place, or company B, which I just left? I know for a fact that company B will contest any unemployment claim, because they said as much when I left, and I have no desire to keep poking that particular hornet's nest. It would be handy to start getting a weekly check at this point while I find a job that won't kill me, though, and if my claim from February will not rouse the ire of company B I would start claiming in a heartbeat.

I can give you more details if you need them:
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total)
As you mentioned, IANAL... however, my understanding is that in evaluating your claim, the unemployment office will suss out any income you've earned. So even if you don't mention company B, they will find out because company B has reported your earnings to your state. If you've quit, I believe company B can challenge your unemployment claim. But I also think UI is determined on a case-by-case basis. YOU will not have to deal directly with company B, but company B will likely be contacted by the unemployment office when they start evaluating your claim.

You can always call the unemployment office and chat about your situation, or just file the claim and see what happens.
posted by hansbrough at 9:33 AM on August 27, 2010

Most states, Oregon included, permit people who leave their employment for "good cause" to receive unemployment benefits. What exactly constitutes "good cause" is open to interpretation, but generally speaking it means that a the average person would have quit under the same circumstances. You generally have to be able to show that you made a good faith effort to notify the employer of the situation and that you gave them time to resolve the issue.

But it doesn't strike me as likely that you'll be able to "restart" your previous claim, because it was effectively ended by taking new employment. It seems most probable that you would need to file a new claim, and that this would wind up going against your most recent employer.

For more specific advice, talk to a local employment attorney and/or your local benefits office.
posted by valkyryn at 9:56 AM on August 27, 2010

Company B has reported your earnings to the state, and as you'll recall from February, the unemployment insurance claim application asks detailed questions about your work history. When you joined Company B, your prior unemployment insurance claim ended. Your layoff from Company A is no longer relevant. If you quit Company B voluntarily, you are not eligible for unemployment compensation. As Valkyryn suggests, your only hope is to demonstrate that your job at Company B was beyond horrible and that you made a good-faith effort to work with the company to make it less so. Read her link carefully; "I hated the job" is far from sufficient.
posted by gum at 10:04 AM on August 27, 2010

When you joined Company B, your prior unemployment insurance claim ended.

This is probably untrue. I have returned to work following a period on UI, and then found myself out of work again within a year. Here in New York, my original claim was still open and I was able to just continue claiming unemployment without starting a new claim.

That said, New York State did have access to the fact that I had worked during the un-accounted-for period, and sent me a lovely questionnaire to fill out regarding the nature of said work and the reasons for my return to the breadlines. You fill out the questionnaire, send it back, and chances are you get to keep claiming*. It's mainly just for their records, not some kind of test to see whether they can yank away the benefits.

Unless company B contests your claim, you will not necessarily have to prove anything to anyone (aside from furnishing basic information about your most recent employer). Even if your claim is contested, I believe the onus is on the company to prove that you are ineligible.

IANAL, but I am someone who has spent a lot of time on unemployment these past few years.

*Unless of course you are really blatantly obviously ineligible based on information you have provided to them. Quitting vs. being laid off is not necessarily one of those circumstances.
posted by Sara C. at 12:38 PM on August 27, 2010

Oh, and before you go ahead and claim UI, you might want to find out whether, in the event that company B contests, what happens to any funds that had been given you you in the meantime. These things take time. Possibly a longer time than you would be claiming, if you found a job quickly. But it would suck if you had to pay it all back.
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on August 27, 2010

Sara may be technically right that, if you file an unemployment insurance claim now, Oregon would reopen your February claim instead of starting a fresh file. And it's certainly true that work you did for Company A would "count" toward calculating the benefit after Company B laid you off.

However, Company B did not lay you off, and that's the important distinction between your case and Sara's.

Again, Valkyryn's link is where you need to go. Can you make a case that you had "good cause" to quit and made a "good faith" effort to remedy what was intolerable about your job? If so, file for unemployment -- there's no harm in that. Just be ready to defend your version of the story when Company B contests the claim.
posted by gum at 1:01 PM on August 27, 2010

When another place laid off someone who quit working for my employer to work for them, my employer got stuck with a portion of the bill, and his unemployment payment was based on what he made both with us and at the new place. The claims will probably be separate (though I know some people who take short-tern jobs while on UI do keep the same claim number.)

You don't need to talk to your former employer, you need to talk to the agency you file with. I hope you documented the hellishness and attempted to address it before quitting.
posted by SMPA at 1:11 PM on August 27, 2010

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