Can You Get Unemployment If You Quit? | Full Guide Inside

Thousands of people quit their job each year. In fact, research suggests a whopping 47 million + individuals left their career in 2021. And while some went the route to put in their two weeks and have another job lined up, others did not. If you left on a whim and forgot to plan, you might be wondering if you’re going to stay afloat with unemployment compensation.

To add insult to injury, there is really no clear answer as to whether or not you can get unemployment if you quit. Every worker’s situation is different, and whether or not a person receives unemployment depends on the reason for leaving and the state they live in.

Needless to say, this is a complicated issue that leaves employees scratching their heads — until now. I’ve put together this handy, must-know guide that provides essential information as to whether or not you’ll get unemployment if you quit, along with other important information like how to appeal a denied unemployment claim and how to resign from your job amicably (for next time, of course).

Can You Get Unemployment If You Quit?

The simple answer is maybe. It solely depends on the reason for quitting your job and what state you’re located in. For example, some states will allow unemployment for personal reasons such as leaving a job for caring for a family member, but not personal reasons like wanting a different job or feeling unfulfilled in your current career. Other states will only accept job-related reasons for quitting, for instance, deplorable working conditions, sexual harassment, a dangerous work environment, or anything illegal.

When Are You Able To Quit Your Job And Still Receive Unemployment Benefits?

There are a few key reasons why someone would be accepted to receive unemployment benefits after a voluntary resignation. Keep in mind that even though you think you have left on a good cause, it doesn’t always mean an automatic acceptance. There is always the chance of disqualification. However, these reasons are most likely to be accepted:

  • Job-Related Issues. You have a higher likelihood of getting unemployment insurance for work-related problems, but they must be pretty severe. For example, unsafe working conditions, harassment from co-workers, discrimination, lack of payment, and illegal activity can be reasons why someone is “forced” to quit their full-time job and thus, require unemployment compensation.
  • Medical Reasons. Some states will allow unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have to quit their job due to an illness or injury. However, others will only accept the UI benefits claim if the unfortunate medical event is directly related to the job.
  • The Expected Job Fell Through. Now, the unemployment office is very picky about this type of claim, as it is relatively difficult to prove. However, this doesn’t mean it is impossible. If someone quits their job — whether it’s self-employment, part-time job, or a full-time job — to take up another suitable job that doesn’t end up working out, they may qualify for UI benefits. (Disclaimer: this does not apply to people who left their current position and are currently performing a job search for a new job.)
  • Personal Reasons/Emergencies. Only specific personal reasons will be applicable for UI benefits. One significant reason is domestic violence. Most states will accept this reason for unemployment insurance. Some other reasons that may be considered are having to quit to take care of an ill family member or moving out of the area with a spouse.
  • COVID-19 Pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic made many people eligible for unemployment benefits that may not have been eligible before (for example, independent contractors who no longer had childcare or those who hadn’t worked a lengthy period before the outbreak). The guidelines for COVID-related unemployment change frequently, so it’s crucial to stay up-to-date with current info.

Keep in mind that each state is different. It is essential to check with the Department of Labor website for your current state to see which claims will potentially be accepted or denied.

How To Determine If You’re Eligible For Unemployment Benefits

There are three essential steps to determine whether or not you may be eligible for unemployment benefits:

  • A Good Reason For Quitting. The most important thing to consider is your reason for leaving. Did you go through no fault of your own, such as a domestic violence case, medical condition, or unsafe working conditions? 
  • You Earned Enough Money. We’ve all heard the term, “You get in what you put out.” In this case, we’re talking about unemployment benefits that you earned from overtime. Most states will require a certain amount of money to be earned before being eligible for UI benefits. (This will also determine your weekly benefit amount.)
  • You Worked Enough Hours. Now, it doesn’t really matter if you worked full-time, part-time, or were an independent contractor. The state simply wants to see that you have worked enough hours (a set base period) at your current job before quitting and applying for unemployment insurance.

Again, specific criteria for claimants such as hours worked and money earned will vary by state. Check your state’s eligibility requirements.

Tips For Appealing An Unemployment Claim Denial

Unfortunately, not all unemployment benefit claims are processed (and this is true whether you quit or are a part of a layoff situation). Regardless, you have the option to appeal the claim and start receiving your unemployment insurance benefits. Here are a few tips to help you through:

  • Appeal Within The Timeframe. Most states only give 10 to 30-day leeway after the initial denial is sent out. Make sure to request an appeal within the timeframe, or you will lose automatically.
  • Keep Applying For Benefits. The last thing you want to do is be out of money while appealing the decision and performing a work search. Continue to apply while you wait.
  • Gather Any Documentation Or Witnesses. The more proof you have to coincide with your claim, the higher your chances of winning the appeal and getting your unemployment compensation.
  • Hire A Lawyer. Appealing a denial with the Department Of Labor can be daunting. If you’re unsure of the proper steps to take, you can always consult with a professional.

How To Resign From Your Job Amicably

The best thing to do to avoid the stress and worry of unemployment benefits is to resign from your job amicably and — hopefully — have a new job lined up within a short period of time. Not sure how to leave your current job amicably? Here are the three steps to success.

  1. Give Your Two-Week Notice. While some people may say this is no longer essential, it’s the best way to be professional and retain a positive work history. Make sure your employer knows why you’re leaving, whether it’s good or bad.
  2. Offer Any Help Along The Way. The transition from your current job to your next job is going to be challenging — not just for you, but for your current employer, too. Take the edge off by offering to help in any way, such as training the next employee.
  3. Work Hard Until Your Last Day. Just because you gave your two-week notice does not mean you should slack off until your last day. Continue to work hard and leave on a high note.

The Bottom Line

If you quit, you’re not guaranteed unemployment benefits. Only specific situations will render acceptance from the Department Of Labor, such as unsafe working conditions or personal hardships like domestic violence and medical reasons. Always remember that if your unemployment claim ends up denied, you can always appeal the decision in hopes of being accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much do I need to have earned to qualify for unemployment benefits?

Every state will have different requirements, so it is essential to check with your local unemployment office for eligibility requirements. For example, California requires an individual makes $1,300 in one quarter or $900 in your highest-earning quarter.

Can I receive unemployment benefits if I am out of work under the Family Medical Leave Act?

Most of the time, an employee who is out of work on FMLA will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. However, every situation and state is different, and some individuals may be qualified.

Am I still required to actively seek work if I’m working part-time for unemployment benefits?

Most states do not require a part-time worker to actively seek employment while receiving unemployment benefits. However, the UI benefits are reduced and will eventually run out, so full-time employment should be considered.

How long will I receive unemployment if I quit my job?

Most states offer 26 weeks of unemployment compensation benefits, although a few offer more or less.

What happens to my unemployment benefits if I take a leave of absence from work?

Taking a leave of absence is typically considered voluntary, which would result in UI benefits being denied. However, it depends on the reasoning behind the leave of absence. For example, someone who became ill with COVID-19 and needed an extended leave of absence would qualify for unemployment benefits due to recent executive orders.