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Employee eligible for unemployment comp if he quits because hours have dried up

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Employees generally aren’t eligible for unemployment compensation if they leave their jobs voluntarily.

On the other hand, employees are eligible if they leave for “compelling and necessitous” reasons. One of those reasons may be a drastic reduction in available work.

Recent case: James Earnest worked two full-time jobs. His primary job was as an assembler at a mobile home manufacturer. He worked a second shift as a security guard for a retailer. He hurt his hand working at his factory job and went out on disability.

When he was ready to return, the company told Earnest it had no work that week and that he could expect just a few days’ work per month going forward. Earnest quit and kept his second job. Then he was terminated from the security position through no fault of his own.

Earnest applied for unemployment, but his first employer argued he had quit and therefore wasn’t eligible.

On appeal, the Commonwealth Court ruled he was eligible because he had only quit because there were so few hours available. A drastic cut in hours is a compelling reason to quit, it said. He will now receive benefits based on his service to both companies. (Earnest v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 1823 C.D. 2010, Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, 2011)

Final note: Had Earnest quit while working full-time hours at the mobile home factory, he would not have been eligible for unemployment when he lost the second job until he earned six times his weekly benefit rate.

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