Unemployment benefits after declining a forced relocation
November 18, 2014 6:48 AM   Subscribe

If my employer forces me to relocate out of town and I refuse, thereby losing my job, would I qualify for unemployment benefits in Texas?

My employer has given me an ultimatum of relocating to another office several hours away or soon being out of a job. They never explicitly said whether I'd be quitting or laid off or fired if I decline, but the message was that if I refuse to relocate they'll keep me on for a certain period and then I'd be out of work. I am unwilling and largely unable to relocate due to having a home lease, a relationship, etc. I was hired with the understanding that I'd be permanently located in my current office.

If I don't find another job before the deadline given by my employer, would I qualify for unemployment benefits in Texas, assuming I meet all other eligibility requirements? Is there a specific way I'd have to handle it to qualify - e.g., not explicitly quitting?

Any advice on handling this situation in general, with the caveat that relocating is not an option for me? Thoughts on how handling this might affect future job applications?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The phrase you are looking for is constructive dismissal. Here's an article on constructive dismissal and unemployment benefits.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:52 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

You most likely would be eligible for unemployment. Of course, you currently have some time to start looking, so perhaps you can get a new job before they lay you off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:54 AM on November 18, 2014

IANAL, but yes. See the section on "Distance to Work" in the Voluntary Leaving chapter of the Texas Appeals Policy and Precendent Manual. The examples given include a case where the job was 20 miles away, so your example of a location "several hours away" would certainly qualify.

Unrelated but fascinating, from here:

"V. General Terminology to Avoid in Any UI Case

Freeloader / Freeloading
Parasite / Parasitic

These terms, while they may be applicable in certain situations, tend to make a claim examiner think that a company simply hates the claimant and will do or say anything to get him or her disqualified."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:00 AM on November 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

One specific note, to add to the good advice above:

Is there a specific way I'd have to handle it to qualify - e.g., not explicitly quitting?

Never quit a job in lieu of being fired/dismissed/laid off/whatever they want to call it. Make them fire you, for two reasons:
1) Firing people is hard, and your company may well decide that it's easier to keep you where you and hire someone for the other location than it is to hire someone for the other location and your job.
2) Unemployment offices and employers have different definitions of "fired," and you'll find that the former are often much less willing to say you were "fired." However, "quit" is pretty much the same to both, and it will have an effect on your unemployment eligibility.
posted by Etrigan at 9:03 AM on November 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

Oh yeah, make them terminate you. You might get severance. While they're doing that, keep applying for jobs!

Never quit if you can be laid off.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:31 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just an anecdote and it's 20 years old, but this exact thing happened to me in TX. My department was moved to another state and the local employees were offered positions up there, or we could try to find another local position in a different department in the same company, or we could remain where we were and there was a deadline at which point our jobs were terminated. We were actually "laid off" and offered severance pay.

I declined to move and I tried to find another position both inside and outside the company. On the deadline, my job was terminated, I started receiving severance pay, AND I became eligible for Unemployment benefits.

I don't think it matters exactly what the company calls it, but YOU DON'T QUIT. Don't sign anything that states that you "voluntarily" are leaving the job. This is involuntary removal from a job and you will almost certainly be eligible for unemployment. Even if they call it a layoff and offer you severance pay, you should still apply immediately for unemployment. In TX, you can accept both types of pay at the same time (at least you could 20 years ago IANAL, etc).
posted by CathyG at 10:32 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

>Never quit if you can be laid off.


I once agreed to a demotion in order to not lose my position that was being eliminated. I lost out on ten weeks of severance pay that would have kept me at full salary for the entire summer.
posted by Kakkerlak at 4:39 PM on November 18, 2014

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