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No unemployment comp for workers who quit to care for disabled family members

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Maternity Leave Laws

Family and military leave laws require Indiana employers to accommodate employees dealing with certain family problems. But the law doesn’t stick employers with an unemployment compensation bill when employees quit after their protected leave expires.

Thanks to a recent Indiana Court of Appeals decision, it is now clear that voluntarily quitting to care for an ill family member does not mean the employee is eligible for unemployment compensation payments.

Recent case: Mildred Whiteside worked for the Indiana Division of Family and Children from 1979 until she resigned in 2006. Her adult son had been injured and is a quadriplegic. Whiteside had taken all the FMLA leave available to her to help her son in rehabilitation and quit when she wasn’t eligible for more time off.

She then applied for unemployment compensation, relying on a provision in the law that provides “an individual whose unemployment is the result of a medically substantiated physical disability” may be eligible under certain conditions. She appealed when unemployment comp authorities turned her down.

But the court rejected her argument, saying the section applies to the employee’s disability, not a relative’s. It dismissed the case. (Whiteside v. Indiana Department of Workforce Development, No. 93A02-0703-EX-229, Court of Appeals of Indiana, 2007)

Final note: The court also explained that any other decision would have exposed employers to almost unlimited liability for problems over which they have no control. Employees would have been able to quit and collect unemployment for all sorts of family medical problems.

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