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Think twice before challenging unemployment–former worker may well qualify for benefits

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

When former employees file for unemployment compensation after they quit for medical reasons, some employers routinely challenge the claims.

After all, the law says those collecting unemployment must be attached to the workforce and ready, willing and able to accept suitable work. If an employer is unable to accommodate a worker’s medical restrictions, employers reason, then the worker can’t work. Thus, they shouldn’t get unemployment.

That’s not always true. Whether an employee is eligible to receive unemployment benefits depends on the specific circumstances of the case.

Recent case: Thomas Rohde quit his job after undergoing cardiac catheterization; he needed to attend regular cardiac rehabilitation for a few months. Rohde apparently believed that his employer had refused to accommodate his needs.

Rohde applied for unemployment, but his former employer argued he wasn’t eligible because medical restrictions prevented him from looking for and accepting work. But Rohde actually found another job before the hearing.

Plus, he kept another part-time job he held at the time he quit his full-time job.

That was enough to persuade the court that Rohde was ready, willing and able to accept work, which made him eligible for benefits. (Rohde v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 2629 CD 2010, Commonwealth Court of PA, 2011)

Advice: Pay close attention to unemployment comp cases involving employees who quit because of a medical condition. They’re often a tip-off that an ADA lawsuit is on the way.

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