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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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I am looking to leave my job after 15 years. I read somewhere

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I am looking to leave my job after 15 years. I read somewhere online (Sorry, I'm sure that drives you crazy.) that if I leave I can still collect unemployment, in California, under the right circumstances.

About me: I am the only other employee at a recording studio. I make minimum wage. I deal with all of the non-musical needs of the business except for the accounting. Overall this job has been okay over the years. There have been both bad and good things about it. I have handled it so far. About three years ago things changed and have been very confusing, and I feel a little emotionally abusive. My boss got divorced, after twenty-two years, and now he seems to bring a lot to work. I understand that this kind of thing happens, but I feel like he takes some of his frustrations out on me. I'm just not sure that I am required to take it.

My boss came in one day and said that I had let him down because I was going to take a vacation. (for my first wedding anniversary) He was going to be out of the office and he wanted me to be here to answer the phone. (Which, unfortunately, hardly ever rings.) Because of the size of our company there is never a "good" time to take vacation. And, I didn't just take the vacation. I asked if I could take it and he refused to give me an answer. He compared me to another contractor that works for us sometimes, but can be unreliable. I am on time to work every day. I am sick maybe once or twice a year. I have to beg for the one or two vacations I get a year. And, I get my friends and family to do things for my boss, for free, all the time. Then half the time he tells me I don't do anything around here, and the other half of the time he is telling clients that the place couldn't run with out me. I don't know what to think.

Just so that you understand why I don't just cut and run. I am handicapped, I have Cerebral Palsy, and although I am very capable I can't just go get a job at McDonalds or stocking shelves.

I need to know if I have grounds to leave and still collect benefits? I need to know what I should tell the unemployment office?
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will do everything I can to answer your question.

Congratulations on your first wedding anniversary. I am very sorry to hear about your troubles at work and can certainly understand why you want to leave.

Typically when an employee resigns, 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 resigns, they are generally regarded as unemployed "through fault," since they made the voluntary decision to become unemployed.

The law does recognize some limited exceptions to this general rule, and one such exception pertains to severe workplace harassment. However, this exception is narrowly tailored and probably would not apply under the circumstances you have described. The exception, codified at Title 22, Section 1256-23(f), provides:

"A claimant who leaves work due to mere annoyance with or a general dislike to another employee or his or her supervisor leaves without good cause. A claimant leaves with good cause if he or she leaves work due to a course of conduct by another employee or his or her supervisor which subjects the claimant to continued abuse, endangers the claimant's health or safety by such conduct as actual or threatened violence or acts affecting the claimant's mental well-being, causes demands for an unreasonable quantity of work to be produced by the claimant, or unreasonably discriminates against the claimant."

In its "Benefits Determination Guide," the EDD gives some examples of what does and does not satify this standard here:

As the linked cases should illustrate, ordinary insults, disrespectful or rude behavior, and simple "poor management" usually do not rise to the necessary level to find "good cause" to quit, thus preserving entitlement to benefits. Of the three referenced cases, the only one in which "good cause" to quit was found involved an instance of physical violation (granted, only a shove).

I can also tell you from personal experience that the EDD is highly skeptical of UI claims in which the claimant quit and, statistically speaking, they generally are not granted.

You can, of course, quit and try to make the argument that you are entitled to benefits under Section 1256-23(f). But you should be prepared for the very real possibility that you will be out of a job and without any financial means of supporting yourself when your benefits claim is denied. Only you can decide whether you are so unhappy at your present job that this is a risk worth assuming. The better course of action, most likely, would likely be to immediately start looking for a new job and remain employed until you find one.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes and kindest regards.
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