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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I live in Tucson, AZ. My company me off last week due to

Customer Question

Hello. I live in Tucson, AZ. My company laid me off last week due to them not having enough work for me to do. They want me to sign the Separation Agreement in order for me to receive the 3 weeks worth of severance. The Separation Agreement does not state that my unemployment was initiated by the employer, but that "both parties have agreed to end the employment". I did not leave voluntary, nor anybody asked for my agreement. I was informed that my position has been eliminated because the company didn't grow as much as anticipated at the time of my hire last year, and that my performance was excellent.
Will signing it disqualify me from receiving unemployment benefits in AZ? What can I do if they need to change the Separation Agreement to reflect the truth, but they refuse? Can my ex-employer prevent me from getting unemployment benefits when asked by the Unemployment Office?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Good evening and thank you for entrusting me to assist you. My name is ***** ***** I will do everything I can to answer your question.

Unemployment benefits are reserved for individuals unemployed "through no fault of their own." When an employee voluntarily ends their employment, they will be deemed unemployed "through fault," and denied benefits on that basis.

What is problematic about the language of the separation agreement you are quoting is that it indicates that you are "agreeing" to end the employment. That, in isolation, would support the denial of benefits because if you are "agreeing" to end the employment you are unemployed "through fault."

The good news is that the unemployment office will not view something like this in isolation. They base eligibility on whether you are ACTUALLY unemployed through no fault of your own, not what your separation agreement may or may not say about it. So, if you can prove through other means that this was actually an involuntary separation, then you can still be approved for benefits.

Therefore, the best course of action would typically be to create documentation to support that your separation is not voluntary. This can be as simple as an email to your employer reiterating that you would like to remain employed but since there is no work for you that you are willing to sign the severance agreement and move on. In short, if you have some way of proving that this is an involuntary separation, signing a severance agreement with the language you describe would not typically result in disqualification from benefits.

I hope that you find this information helpful. 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 moving forward.