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Fight unemployment benefits if employee quits because of unsubstantiated safety fears

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Employees who resign from their jobs can still be eligible for unemployment compensation if they can show they had a good reason for quitting that’s attributable to their employer. For example, an employee who reports a serious safety hazard and stops coming to work after the employer refuses to fix the hazard may collect benefits.

But that’s not true if the employee doesn’t give the employer a chance to remedy the problem and just quits out of fear.

Recent case: Nursing home employee Joni Quam developed flu-like symptoms and rashes from what she suspected was workplace mold. Her doctors told her they also believed mold might be the cause of her symptoms.

Her employer allowed her to take FMLA leave while it remedied the situation. It hired a mold remediation expert, followed all mold removal directions, ordered special filters and masks and even offered to move Quam’s office to another location.

When tests showed the mold prob­lem had been fixed, the nursing home ordered Quam to return to work. She refused to even review the results of the mold tests and never returned.

Quam filed for unemployment, but the nursing home argued that she didn’t qualify for benefits.

The court agreed, and ruled Quam ineligible. Instead of asking for copies of the mold tests to show her doctors, she relied on unsubstantiated fear. The court said she had no good reason to quit. (Quam v. Farmington Health Services, No. A10-1318, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2011)

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