December 2015 Briefly: An Unemployment Case Analysis
The claimant quit voluntarily due to safety concerns and health reasons. The claimant was disqualified from benefits upon a finding that she quit without good cause connected with the work. The claimant appealed, and a hearing was scheduled before an administrative law judge.
At the Hearing
The Claimant’s Evidence: The claimant, an assistant retail store manager, was working at the store when it was robbed. The store did not have a functional security system. The claimant’s manager told the claimant that during an investigation into the robbery, the employer discovered a violation of policy, and the claimant might receive disciplinary action for not following procedures. The claimant’s already high blood pressure was elevated, and she was frightened to return to work. She asked her manager if she could move to another store, but her request was denied. The claimant visited her doctor, who advised her to quit.
The Employer’s Evidence: The employer testified that during its investigation into the robbery, the employer discovered a violation of closing procedures which required disciplinary action under the employer’s policies. The claimant did inform her manager of her fear of returning to the store and had requested a transfer, which her manager denied. The claimant failed to discuss her fear with anyone else at the company. When the claimant resigned, she did not specify why. If the claimant had reported her concerns to Human Resources, her concerns would have been investigated.
The Hearing Decision
The Administrative Law Judge found that the claimant’s quit was without good cause, and she was disqualified from benefits. The administrative law judge found that the claimant’s failure to contact Human Resources to request assistance negated any good cause she might have had for leaving work. The claimant appealed, arguing that the decision was contrary to the weight of the evidence and testimony which was presented at the hearing.
The Board of Review Decision
The Board of Review disagreed with the Administrative Law Judge and reversed the lower decision. The Board found that the claimant had a reasonable fear for her safety, and was able to prove that the robbery led to an exacerbation of a health condition. The claimant’s failure to contact Human Resources to discuss her concerns did not negate the good cause that she had to leave employment because any attempt the claimant might have made to preserve her employment would have been futile due to her health. The claimant was allowed benefits.
- An exacerbation of an existing health condition due to the claimant’s work may result in a finding of good cause to leave employment. In most states, if a claimant is able to prove that her health is negatively affected by a condition of employment, the claimant may be allowed benefits. In some states, if a claimant is allowed benefits because she left her employment for health reasons, a merit-rated employer could be relieved of charging on the claim. States differ on their handling of these issues. Your unemployment consultant can answer any questions you may have about your state.
- A reasonable fear for one’s safety may be good cause to leave employment. In most states, a finding of good cause to quit may be made if the claimant is able to prove that there are dangerous working conditions which are or could be hazardous to her health. If a claimant is alleging that safety concerns led to her decision to leave employment, be prepared to attempt to prove that the claimant’s fear was unreasonable or unfounded. If the claimant’s health condition was not a factor, the employer might have affected the outcome of this case if the employer could have testified that the store’s security system would have been made functional and/or the claimant could have been transferred to a different store. It might also have been necessary for the claimant to admit that the changes would have lessened the fear she had about her safety.
For more information about unemployment cost management services through Equifax, contact Pete Krieshok at pete.krieshok@Equifax.com.
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