You can be eligible for unemployment benefits in Iowa if you quit your job, so long as you quit with good cause attributable to your employer.  There are a number of different ways you can show good cause attributable to your employer.  For example, a substantial change in the conditions of your employent—significantly reduced hours, different assignments, different job locations, different pay—can all constitute good cause.  Good cause can also be indicated by a hostile work environment or unsafe work conditions.

            Sonia Jackson worked as a night janitor, and one of her assignments was to take trash to a dumpster outside in her employer’s parking lot.  One night, the parking lot lights were out and, although she performed her assignments as required, she became concerned for her safety.  The next afternoon, Ms. Jackson voiced her concern to a supervisor and asked if she could find out if those lights were working.  The supervisor told Ms. Jackson she could use a flashlight.  Ms. Jackson found this remark unprofessional and failed to show concern for her safety.  She quit her job without notice.  The lights were working.

            Ms. Jackson applied for unemployment benefits and was denied.  She appealed, and on June 2nd, Administrative Law Judge Steven A. Wise issued his decision affirming her denial.  While unsafe conditions can constitute good cause attributable to an employer, and while Ms. Jackson’s supervisor could have responded more helpfully, Ms. Jackson didn’t show that her employer behaved so egregiously that she had good cause to quit.  Judge Wise stated, “Since the lights were restored on February 20, and the employer did not know in advance about the problem with the lights on February 19, I cannot conclude the employer had created unsafe working conditions. The claimant did not take reasonable steps to resolve her concerns before taking the drastic step of quitting her job without advance notice.”

            What you can learn from this is that it’s the employee’s burden to prove the employer gave her good cause to quit.  It’s not enough to show that your supervisor messed up—you have to show that you gave the employer a reasonable chance to fix the problem.  And it’s not always going to be fair.  We might not know everything that was going on in this case; maybe Ms. Jackson already had issues with her employer, and maybe that colored her decision to quit.  Maybe if she had had a lawyer to protect her rights, we would see more of her side of the story in Judge Wise’s decision.

            Working on an unemployment claim on your own can be overwhelming and difficult.  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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