Am I eligible for unemployment?
March 4, 2016 4:23 PM   Subscribe

Got fired for quitting?? Am I eligible for unemployment? (USA - MA)

I worked at a company for less than a year, first as a contractor and then as a salaried employee. When it transitioned to salary work I signed no employment contract, and was not provided one, but did sign a W2 and have payment records. This week I verbally and politely declared my sincere intention to quit, and was verbally told we would continue a cordial discussion / negotiation on this matter after lunch. After lunch, I was told in an unprofessional manner to leave and not come back. My access to my company email was immediately severed and I am concerned that written notice may be falsified.

YANML, but am I eligible to collect unemployment in Massachusetts?
posted by fbo to Law & Government (20 answers total)
It sounds like you quit, so how would you qualify for unemployment?

You can always apply and if they don't challenge it you'll be able to collect but again...let's say everyone agrees that you didn't quit, then why do you no longer work there? Is it because you got laid off or fired for performance issues etc...

Just apply. Worst that can happen is you don't collect.
posted by eatcake at 4:27 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Not a lawyer, but: I believe that in this situation, since you were the one who originally announced your intention to quit, it still counts as quitting -- even if it didn't happen on the exact timeframe that you intended. So no, you're probably not eligible.

But as eatcake says, you have nothing to lose by applying and truthfully stating what happened.
posted by teraflop at 4:29 PM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

Gray area. I would for sure file and let the state figure out if you're eligible.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:29 PM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: There is no foul in filing even if your employer contests it. You should be given an opportunity during your filing process to let them know if there was anything sketchy about your termination, but if that doesn't happen then find out who you call to talk about it.

Your state's workforce commission is actually generally invested in your fair treatment. They're not generally assuming you're there to commit fraud, in part because employers routinely do so on a scale you can't even imagine. So file and let them sort it out.

I have a friend who was laid off, and then when he filed for unemployment the employer contested that he was fired for performance reasons, which was news to my friend. It went to mediation and the employer didn't show up so he automatically won.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:45 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Grey area, and a lot would depend on what sort of conversation you had. i.e. if your conversation and intent was

I'm not sure this is the right long term fit for me, and I can't see myself here in two years. Can we talk about a plan to transition away my responsibilities so I can leave in 6 months time

you'd (probably?) be pretty clear for unemployment. i.e. you were willing to continue working there for six months, but your employer moved to block your actions. But if the conversation was

I'm resigning, let's talk about how we handle it after lunch

and you didn't object to leaving when they told you to, your employer would be able to make a pretty compelling argument to the state that you voluntarily left your position.

File with the state, and if it's challenged be prepared with a truthful story of what your intent was with that conversation, and keep a neutral, professional tone with the government folks you'll need to talk with. That your employer didn't have you sign a physical resignation letter points to a half assed handling of HR, which will probably follow through to how they handle paying their unemployment insurance and dealing with disputes.

Good luck, and in the future remember to never make a clear intention about anything to HR and/or a manager :)
posted by alan at 4:48 PM on March 4, 2016 [7 favorites]

In a lot of jurisdictions, there's a difference between "being fired" and "being layed off". Sometimes if you're fired for cause (which sounds like your situation), you aren't entitled to unemployment until after a few months.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2016

Just file (immediately) and let them sort it out.
posted by SMPA at 5:34 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Many employers will not allow an employee who has "verbally and politely declared [a] sincere intention to quit" to remain on the premises. Doing so leaves the possiblity that the employee could take forms/information/contacts with them and use them in competition. Effectively, anyone giving two weeks notice could be expected to be removed right then and there.

So, is there a difference between "verbally and politely declared [your] sincere intention to quit" and "Boss, I'm done. Please consider this my two weeks notice." If your "verbally and politely declar[ing] [your] sincere intention to quit" was effectively "I'm giving you two weeks notice," then I don't see a problem with them walking you out, even after lunch (after your boss talked to his boss or legal and they said "fbo is still on the premises?!? What're you thinking, boss?").

In this scenario, I don't see why you should get unemployment, but you should (probably) get two weeks pay.

I also agree with everyone else up thread -- go ahead and file, beause it probably can't hurt.
posted by China Grover at 5:42 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: It was more like:

"I quit, because it's clear that this isn't going to be a good long term fit."
"Can we convince you to stay on for 2 months of transition?"
"Maybe, what's the plan?"
"Not sure, let me think about it over lunch."
...2 hours pass and I get back to work...

I more interested in dis-incentivizing this behavior than in collecting money.
posted by fbo at 5:46 PM on March 4, 2016

Best answer: File, and then make sure you have your story straight. They will be asked what happened.

You: I was trying to open a conversation about transitioning out of this position and was fired effective immediately.
Them: They quit, we told them to leave.

You can't do much about being no longer working there and honestly I don't know what you can do about disincentivizing their behavior but it sounds to me (a non-lawyer obviously but someone who has received unemployment) that you have a decent shot at getting unemployment.
posted by jessamyn at 5:51 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am not sure what you think is wrong with their behavior. Is it because they changed their mind about a transition during the two hours they had to think about it after you sprung on them your intention to leave? You think collecting unemployment will change their behavior?

I disagree with those who think you will get unemployment, but I guess you have nothing to lose by filing. To me, the only difference between when you left after YOU gave notice was the time frame, but you still gave notice. They have no obligation to keep you on for some period of time after notice. What if you had agreed to two months and then after a month they found someone and told you to take a hike? You would not get unemployment then. Maybe in the two hours they had to think about it they found an alternative solution to keeping you around for a transition. Maybe they just wanted to protect themselves and lock down your network access during lunch which they apparently did. Once you give notice, the time frame for that notice is a function first of how long they are willing to keep you and second how long you are willing to work. Either of you can end the relationship at any moment. You quit. They decided how long after you gave notice they were willing to keep you based on what they thought was best for their business.
posted by AugustWest at 6:27 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yes, but firing for cause generally includes documentation of the "cause" and attempts made to rectify it. In most states, just saying you want to leave or are thinking about leaving or getting caught looking for another job or mentioning to someone that you've been accepted to med school in the fall, that's not legally cause for firing. They need to trump up a written warning and performance plan, or frame you for a crime, first.

Termination without cause is generally grounds for benefits.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:30 PM on March 4, 2016

Best answer: I believe you will get unemployment.

I had a similar situation where I told a couple of trusted coworkers and manager that I was planning to move across the country. I never formally gave notice because I didn't know how long my house would take to sell.

The manager I told actually did quit, because she was disgusted with the sexism at this workplace. I still don't know how it happened, but the new manager magically knew I was planning to quit and caused me to receive a mysterious email from security about how to turn in my badge, etc.

I filed for unemployment and the company claimed I'd quit. I contested it. There was a three-way call between the state, me, and the employer. The employer resoundingly lost. They were asked for proof that I quit and they didn't have it, simple as. Your employer doesn't have your resignation, either, and if they fabricate an email, hopefully you can establish that you had already been kicked out when it was sent.

It was very helpful to have unemployment while I waited for my house to sell!
posted by mysterious_stranger at 6:48 PM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Can't hurt to try for unemployment, but if they rule against you, you'll be returning those checks, so you can cash them, but you should spend only what you can replace, at least until this is settled. You didn't mention getting a final paycheck, but they owe you that along with any payout (vacation, etc.) to which you are entitled. Ever signed for your paycheck before? Whatever the answer to that question, it's not going to change this time; if they try to make you sign for it when you never did before, you should refuse and call a lawyer.

Tread lightly when you go back; clean your desk, hand out contact info to coworkers (make up some cards or something), but keep it terse because your privileges there are gone. It's possible there's no ill will here, just someone reacting strongly to their own fears (possibly justified!) about hostile terminations.

If they want to avoid contesting unemployment, you should have a number in mind, and I suggest that the number is around 2 weeks salary, or at least the length of any notice you verbally gave. You should have a number in mind.

Don't sign anything at all without reading it, and don't leave without a copy of the form.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:38 PM on March 4, 2016

The state will generally err on the side of the employee, but there will be a process to it. When the employer contests your application (which they will), a labor department investigation will automatically be triggered. That investigation will take a lot of time and energy for both you and your former employer, as well as the state. You might get something out of it in the end, or you might not. But you probably won't get anything until the investigation has concluded, which will take as long as your former employer chooses to draw it out. It might go quickly like mysterious_stranger's experience, but it can also go on for months. The investigation process isn't fun for anybody involved. Granted, the process probably varies from state to state, but when I went thru it in Georgia, it was one of the most frustrating and annoying experiences of my life. Take your chances with it if you want to, but the truth is that you did say 'I quit.' I would encourage you to just move on and put your energy into your next job, not your last one.
posted by spilon at 8:42 PM on March 4, 2016

It might also help to keep in mind that contrary to popular belief, quitting does not always mean you don't qualify for unemployment.
posted by Kimmalah at 5:31 AM on March 5, 2016

also, make sure you get any vacation time accrued. Companies can be real jerks about that.
posted by theora55 at 9:44 AM on March 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

My husband was in a similar situation. He talked with his manager about his intention to quit and they worked out a 4-week transition plan where he would train his replacement. The higher-ups hired the replacement a few days later, then told my husband to leave immediately. Husband filed for unemployment, employer contested it, there was a hearing, and the ruling came down in my husband's favor.

nthing the advice to file and let the state sort it out.
posted by bedhead at 10:15 AM on March 5, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I ended up applying and there were lots of options on the form specifically regarding "discharged after giving notice."
posted by fbo at 11:53 AM on March 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I also had this happen and while I did not end up getting unemployment, it did make me feel a little better than I was a thorn in their side. Good luck!
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:17 AM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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