Can you get unemployment benefits if you quit your job in Texas?

Legal News GavelUsually, you can’t get unemployment benefits if you quit your job. However, if you quit for good cause, it may be possible to get unemployment benefits. When you apply for unemployment benefits, the Texas Workforce Commission will investigate why you’re not working anymore. If it decides you weren’t terminated for misconduct at your job, or you quit your job for a work-related or medical reason, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits.

What is good cause? There are a lot of reasons people quit their jobs that do not count as “good cause.” For example, people quit because they decide that they are not being paid enough to do a particular job or because they want to move onto a job that is more fulfilling. Generally, you cannot receive unemployment benefits if you quit your job for those reasons. The reason must be something more severe, such as harsh harassment or serious discrimination.

A 2016 Texas unemployment benefits decision illustrates a situation in which a woman could not get unemployment benefits, even though she’d alleged racial discrimination. A woman appealed from a summary judgment that affirmed the Texas Workforce Commission’s decision to deny her unemployment benefits because it found she voluntarily resigned from her job. She claimed her resignation was based on racial discrimination and harassment.

The woman worked as a revenue tax auditor in Texas, but for another state’s agency. She’d transferred from the other state’s in-state office to a Houston office in order to resolve a grievance she had against her supervisor in the other state, where the supervisor was harassing her. Before being transferred, she filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She thought she should be granted an assignment as an out-of-state auditor, a job that would allow her to work away from the office and check in every once in a while.

The employer didn’t respond, but she also didn’t officially complain about her job or her supervisors. She merely expressed disappointment at the assignment. She was reprimanded by her supervisor for having too many unscheduled call-in absences. She was told to do a better job scheduling her leave at least 24 hours before taking it. Days later, she emailed for sick leave on Monday morning and said she didn’t know how to schedule the leave ahead of time for illness. She was told she’d need a doctor’s note and addressed in a stern manner. She quit later that day.

Soon afterward, she resigned and filed for unemployment compensation. These benefits were denied because she’d voluntarily resigned without good cause. She argued she’d quit because of ongoing racial discrimination and due to a hostile work environment created by her supervisor. She felt she wasn’t evaluated fairly.

The TWC appeal tribunal disagreed with her claim of racial discrimination. It noted she never went back to HR with racial discrimination complaints after being transferred. It found she’d quit voluntarily and without good cause.

The appellate court explained that someone who leaves her job voluntarily and without good cause is disqualified from getting unemployment benefits. Good cause connected with work is defined by the TWC as being a situation in which there is a cause related to the job that would cause someone genuinely interested in keeping the job to nevertheless leave the job. Someone who is dissatisfied with working conditions but doesn’t provide the employer with an opportunity to resolve the matter is not considered to have quit for good cause.

It can be important to obtain representation from an experienced employment lawyer when you have a dispute with your employer regarding discrimination or other matters. Contact us at (214) 528-6500 or via our online intake form.

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