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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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Without going into too much detail, I have worked at a restaurant

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Without going into too much detail, I have worked at a restaurant for 8 years and since my old manager left about a year and a half ago, things are deteriorating a lot and have gotten particularly bad the past month or so. One of the owners drinks Scotch and does cocaine all night long - as he has done since the restaurant opened 25 years ago. They brought on a new manager a few months ago. He throws back shots of wine (yes, wine) and vodka/cranberries from the second he walks in. He left for an hour and half the other night during the rush to go to another bar. My guess is that he is also doing cocaine on a fairly regular basis. One of our servers was harassed a couple weeks ago - a customer took her phone out of her purse and called his number and has been texting her. She told Kenny what happened, though not the owners. This guy was back in the restaurant this past weekend. I told Kenny that was the guy that took Sandra's phone. He actually knows the guy and took no steps to let him know that what he did was completely unacceptable. Kenny told me that he's a manager, he can't just kick the guy out of the restaurant. In addition to the restaurant barely functioning because no one is overseeing anything, I feel completely unsafe working in this environment. I also feel as though there is no one I can talk to. The owners love Kenny and I feel like speaking with them could actually make my situation worse. I don't think that I can go back - I am literally that stressed out about it. Were I to quit, would I have any rights to unemployment or disability until I can secure another job?
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I am so sorry to hear about your work environment and can certainly understand why you'd like to leave.

Typically when an employee quits, they will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. This is because one of the requirements for receiving benefits is that the claimant be unemployed "through no fault of their own." When an individual quits, they are generally regarded as unemployed "through fault," since they made the voluntary decision to become unemployed.

The EDD recognizes certain very limited exceptions to this general rule, but any individual seeking UI benefits following a voluntary quit will be facing an uphill battle.

The two potentially relevant exceptions for an individual in your circumstance are that you quit due to a "substantial and immediate threat of serious illness or injury," or due to extreme workplace hostility.

With regard to the first exception, Title 22, Section 1256-15(d) states in relevant part:

. . . . Mere concern with one's health or safety is not sufficient to justify good cause for leaving work. The work must cause an undue risk of injury or illness to the claimant. A claimant who leaves work due to fear of becoming ill or being injured has good cause if the claimant has a reasonable basis to believe that there is an undue risk of injury or illness . . . . Minor chronic health conditions that are not aggravated or significantly affected by the work do not justify leaving the work.

So, if you can demonstrate that you had reaosnable grounds to believe your safety is being substantially and immediately threatened, you could conceivably collect unemployment on this ground following a voluntary quit.

With regard to the second exception, Title 22, Section 1256-23 (b), provides:

. . . An individual who leaves work due to mere personal dislike, distaste, or minor inconvenience caused by working conditions leaves without good cause. If the working conditions are so unsatisfactory as to be intolerable to a reasonable person genuinely desirous of retaining employment and prior to leaving work the individual has taken steps to preserve the job . . . there is good cause for leaving the work. An individual who has good cause to leave work for intolerable working conditions is not required to seek an adjustment from the employer prior to leaving work if the employer is unable to remedy the working condition or has previously refused the individual's request for adjustment, or the individual knows that the employer has refused the requests of other employees for an adjustment of the same working condition.

With regard to claiming either of these exceptions, it is most important to document them. This can be done through a personal journal, through written complaints to your manager, through witness statements, or any other means that would corrobrate your personal testimony.

Again, while these are potential exceptions to the general rule that an individual who quits will be disqualified, you will always be taking a risk when you quit your job on the assumption that you will be eligible to collect.

I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX this information helps you and I wish you the best.

If you do not have any further concerns, I would be very grateful if you would give my answer a positive rating and click submit, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you. If you have any additional concerns that you would like me to address, please feel free to let me know by hitting the REPLY or CONTINUE CONVERSATION button and I will be more than happy to continue assisting you.

Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Thank you and very kindest regards.
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