Quittin' time
April 12, 2008 9:33 AM   Subscribe

Two questions about quitting or not quitting my job in Washington, DC: 1. What are my rights if I quit and want to collect unemployment and 2. If I stay, how do I stay sane?

I started a new job last year and it almost immediately became clear that the job and the organization were not what I thought they would be. However, I decided to give it six months. Six months did not help. There's no way I can stay in the job long term - it's way too stressful, the work environment is toxic, the staff is not respected by the organization's leadership.

So now I have a choice: quit and find another job, or stick it out until my project is done and then quit (by the end of the year anyway, so not that long).

If I quit, I would probably be able to get a new job pretty quickly, but nothing is certain and I may have to apply for unemployment benefits. Does anyone have experience applying for unemployment in DC after quitting a job? Did you have to prove that you left for "good cause?" I think I'd probably have a good case, considering the nature of my work environment and the fact that the job I'm told to do is pretty different than the job I was hired for, but I'd rather not be forced to drag my employer's name through the mud. Don't want to burn all my bridges.

Second question: how do I survive the rest of my time at this job without getting depressed or otherwise dragged down? I can already see this happening: I have little energy to do interesting things on the weekend, I'm constantly worried about work, I'm starting to lose confidence in my abilities related to my profession. I'm burning out.

There are a few good things about my job: I love my immediate coworkers. The 20% of the time I get to do the job I was hired for, I love it. They pay me well enough that I can save some money for something I've been planning for a while (sorry to be vague, but trying to keep the anonymity here). My title and the organization's good reputation are still pretty impressive, which will hopefully help me get a new job. How can I keep the focus on these things, and what I'm going to do afterwards, and the good things about life (friends, spring, etc) and away from the horrible, soul-sucking job?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total)
I would be pissed if you got unemployment for quiting your job because it sucks. That is not what unemployment is for. THe money you claim you have been saving is for getting you from this job to the next if you quit. If you are fired or laid off, that is another story.

I would finish the project while sending resumes or looking and change jobs after the project.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:43 AM on April 12, 2008

You cannot collect unemployment if you quit or are fired for cause. You can only collect unemployment if you lost your job due to a workforce reduction or the business shut down (temporarily or permanently).

Well, you can make a claim for unemployment, but your former employer will be contacted and if they say you quit or were fired for cause, the claim will be rejected.
posted by dchase at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2008

why not do what normal people do, and secure another job before quitting?
posted by duckstab at 10:07 AM on April 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

You cannot collect unemployment if you quit or are fired for cause.

"For cause" is not as simple as it sounds, I think. If your job is absolutely intolerable for good reasons, I think you may be able to quit and get unemployment because the job conditions constituted a constructive firing.

Furthermore, if you are fired for garden-variety incompetence, I think you may be able to get unemployment. It's extreme misconduct that is more likely to rule out unemployment benefits.

/not an expert on unemployment
posted by jayder at 10:10 AM on April 12, 2008

I think you may be able to quit and get unemployment because the job conditions constituted a constructive firing.

No, you can't.

When you attach your signature to the "I resign" letter (which should be in writing), and again when you sign things at your exit interview, you will be explicitly showing that you are leaving your position voluntarily.

You are not eligible for unemployment when you make the decision to leave a company, only when the company makes the decision for you.

If you were to file for benefits, your former employer will be contacted, and will fax over a copy of the documents showing that you left voluntarily. You won't see a dime.
posted by toxic at 10:35 AM on April 12, 2008

There ARE scenarios where you can quit and receive unemployment benefits. I think it's called constructive dismissal (or constructive discharge). But its very narrow and chances are they will fight it.

Check the website of the unemployment department for the state where you live. The DOES site for DC states generally that "you must be unemployed through no fault of your own".
posted by gjc at 10:48 AM on April 12, 2008

A scenario where you can likely claim unemployment benefits after quitting is if you quit because you were asked to do anything illegal or unethical as part of your job (and have the evidence to back it up).
posted by ShooBoo at 11:21 AM on April 12, 2008

Wow. You sound like me from a year ago. I also live in DC.

What kind of job are you in? I think there are a number of temp agencies in the city that you can get a job with until you find a new place to work.

You can Mefi Mail me if you want to discuss further. But I was totally in your shoes last year and I took on a contract job that I found very easily.
posted by onepapertiger at 12:06 PM on April 12, 2008

You can call the EJC's Worker's Rights Clinic and ask for information about D.C. unemployment. In California, in some cases you can get UI even if you quit. It's called a "good cause" quit, and there's a whole section of a manual in our office that reviews the rules. So it's hard to say in your case. Of course, if it's really a bad match, you may ask them if they would be willing to "fire" you. They might jump at the chance (or not).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:46 PM on April 12, 2008

You sound like me from a year ago. I also live in DC.

Haha, me too. Exactly. I quit mine about a month ago. things are much better.

Why not start applying for new jobs now? don't even be perfect about it, just get going - that's what helped me get out of a rut, because the maximum depressing toxic environment I was in.. it made me start to feel like I didn't even have skills to get a better job.. and it can really bring you down. But I started to enjoy the meticulous nature of updating my resume and putting down all the things I'd been able to do despite the working conditions. Get out. You don't owe the organization to finish your project if you're being treated poorly. And I discovered that as miserable and stuck as I was.. I managed to do more good work wrapping up projects at my last job than I had in months, once I'd already given notice and had an end in sight. So maybe look toward giving a little longer notice if it'll take a little longer to wrap up what you want, but having that end point makes a big difference IMHO.

and yes, the weather is beautiful now in the district! hope that helps. :)
posted by citron at 1:23 PM on April 12, 2008

Another scenario, in Washington State at least. You can quit and collect UI if you can show that your job has been detrimental to your health. Especially if your doctor recommends that you change jobs or professions for health reasons. I had to do this once; the doctor recommended that I quit because the mile long walking commute in the summer, to a place not serviced by the bus system at all, was making my Dystonia seriously flare up to the point where I was nonfunctional by the end of the day.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:39 PM on April 12, 2008

Normally, you can't get unemployment if you quit. You could try to get your employer to give you a lay-off. That's the only way I know of.
posted by Chessbum at 4:30 AM on April 13, 2008

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