You might be eligible for unemployment benefits in Iowa even if you voluntarily quit your job.  In order to do this you have to have quit with good cause attributable to your employer.  Basically, it’s got to be your employer’s fault that you quit.

            There are a bunch of ways your employer’s actions or omissions can give you good cause to voluntarily quit your job.  One of the biggies is making what’s termed “a substantial change in the contract for hire”.  You were hired with the understanding that your qorking conditions were going to be X, and later on down the line your employer changes them substantially, to Y.  When that happens, your employer has made a substantial change in the contract for hire, and at that time you’ve got good cause to voluntarily quit attributable to your employer.  Some examples of substantial changes are a big difference in the number of hours you get, a change in the shift you’re assigned to, a change in the location of the work, and a drastic change in the sort of work itself.

            Bill Lang (not his real name) worked as a customer service representative at an Iowa store of a large international corporation.  He was hired in 2008, and worked about 35 hours a week until September 2013.  At that time, his hours were reduced to 20-25 hours—his employer told him that the reason for this had to do with the Affordable Care Act.  Still, Mr. Lang hung in there and kept plugging away at his job, hoping his hours would increase toward the spring and summer. 

            Mr. Lang continued to be concerned about his reduced hours and consulted a local Workforce Development Center.  There, he learned about voluntary quits and how they are handled under Iowa law.  But he didn’t actually quit.  In fact, in March 2014 he received a pay raise, from $9.25 an hour to $9.75 an hour.

            Mr. Lang quit his job in June 2014, telling his employer that he was quitting in response to his reduced hours.  He applied for unemployment benefits and was denied them.  He appealed the decision.  Administrative Law Judge James E. Timberland issued the appeal decision on August 5, 2014, deciding against Mr. Lang.

            Here’s the thing about Mr. Lang’s case.  He did have good cause to quit attributable to his employer—back in September 2013.  Judge Timberland pointed out that “An employee acquiesces in a change in the conditions of employment if he…does not resign in a timely manner.”  That’s exactly what Mr. Lang did.  He took too long to make up his mind.  He took nearly a year to mull it over.  It was enough time for some months to pass, for him to consult to employment advisors, for him to get a raise, and for some more months to pass.  He simply did not respond to the change in work conditions in a timely manner.

            The big decisions aren’t easy to make.  A lot of people might have acted like Mr. Lang—stuck  it out, reluctant to make a change.  If Mr. Lang had spoken to a lawyer, he might have been able to make his decision sooner, and his case could have turned out completely differently.  I like to say to my clients, "Help me to help you."  If we can help you, call the Lombardi Law Firm to speak with attorneys Steve Lombardi and Katrina Schaefer. We can be reached at 515-222-1110 or by emailing us at [email protected] and [email protected] We look forward to your call.

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