Can I quit and collect unemployment if boss is a bully?

The following post was written over one year ago. Laws often change and recent case decisions may impact how the law is applied. As such, the information in this article may not be current. We encourage you to contact our firm for information on this particular article and to make sure the analysis is still up-to-date.

Dear “Ask the Attorney”:

My employer is truly a bully.  I dread going to work every single day.  Without going too much into what she has done to make my life a living hell every day I go to work, I wanted to know if I quit can I collect unemployment?

Miserable at work


Our guest blogger is Timothy J. Ford, Esq.,  an associate with the firm of Einhorn Harris Ascher Barbarito & Frost, P.C.   Tim practices in the closely held business group concentrating on working on employment law, general and commercial litigation, and working with owners/managers of assisted living facilities. 

Dear Miserable:

Your question is very common…do not feel alone.  As is often the case, there is not always an easy answer as few issues are black and white.  You should contact an employment attorney and provide the attorney with details about the conditions you are enduring at your job.

First, it is important to understand what you need to do to collect unemployment.  To be eligible, you must 1) file a claim, 2) be able to work, 3) actively seek and be available for work, and 4) satisfy an earnings requirement.

Applicants for unemployment may be disqualified in certain circumstances.  Applicant can be disqualified for the following reasons (among several other specific and uncommon reasons):

1. Voluntary termination of employment;

2. Misconduct;

3. Failure to apply for or accept suitable work;

4. Receipt of remuneration in lieu of notice (for example, a severance package); and

5. Fraud.

Your issue touches on whether you left “voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work”.

The question is if you leave, did you have good cause to do so.  You must show that your reasons for leaving are substantial and reasonable, and directly related to your work.  Dissatisfaction with the terms or conditions of employment generally does not suffice.  Just being unhappy will not allow you to collect unemployment.   However, good cause will be found when an employee is subjected to intentional harassment.

For example, if you can link the harassment to a medical condition that has resulted or been exacerbated by the harassment, it is more likely that you will be able to collect unemployment.  Exposure to dangerous or unhealthy conditions will characterize your departure as involuntary.  However, verbal abuse alone may not be enough.

To appropriately answer your question, the devil is in the detail.  Before you resign, you should consult with an attorney to help you determine whether your resignation would be with “good cause”, allowing you to resign and collect unemployment.

“Ask the Attorney” is a new blog in which answers to your legal questions submitted to may be answered.  The answers to the questions are for informational purposes only and are not to be construed as legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship.  The facts of each case is different, therefore you should seek competent legal representation.