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No unemployment benefits if employee quit before you had a chance to fix problems

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

In Minnesota, employees can sometimes qualify for unemployment compensation if they quit because they had to endure tough working conditions. But that’s only true if they let their employer know about workplace problems and the employer doesn’t respond. Simply walking off the job in anger doesn’t cut it.

Recent case: Richard has a back problem and a lung disorder that is aggravated by exposure to second-hand smoke. When a subordinate refused to lift a heavy box for him, Richard complained about inadequate staffing and walked off the job.

He applied for and was granted unemployment compensation, based on the premise that his working ­conditions were intolerable. He also told the hearing officer that co-workers smoked around him, causing health problems.

The employer appealed, arguing it never got a chance to fix the problems Richard claimed created intolerable conditions. All it knew about before Richard walked out was a one-time incident in which the co-worker refused to lift the box. Richard never mentioned second-hand smoke.

The appeals court reversed the unemployment benefits award. It concluded that Richard never gave his employer a chance to solve the problem. His resignation was voluntary, not a conscientious refusal to work in intolerable conditions. (Anderson v. Bredemus Hardware Company, No. A12-4, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2012)

Final note: Always respond to workplace condition complaints. Fix legitimate problems before employees quit.

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