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Unemployment benefits are an important safety net for workers who lose their jobs and have no other source of income. However, unemployment benefits are not automatic for all people who are out of work, and many factors can disqualify a person from receiving unemployment benefits. One of those disqualifying factors is “voluntary termination,” or quitting your job. However, the rule of ineligibility for a voluntary termination is not absolute and has many exceptions.

Did You Truly “Quit”?

First, consider whether your separation from employment was truly a “quit.” A quit is generally defined as “when an employee shows that he intends to leave his employment and indicates such intention by word or manner of action, or by conduct, inconsistent with the continuation of the employee-employer relationship.” A voluntary quit is not limited to situations in which the employee explicitly told the employer, “I quit.” For example, an employee failing to report to work for a week with no explanation is likely to be considered a “voluntary termination” of employment sufficient to disqualify a person from receiving unemployment benefits, even if the employee did not formally tender his resignation. Other ways an employee may “quit” without formally quitting are refusing a reasonable transfer or failing to meet the requirements of the job.

Conversely, just because an employer and an employee have agreed to consider the employee’s separation from employment to be a voluntary resignation does not mean that it will be considered a “quit” by the Unemployment Division. If the employer gives an employee a choice between termination and a quit (“resignation in lieu of termination”), the separation will not be considered a “quit” because it was not truly voluntary.

Exceptions to the General Rule of Unemployment Ineligibility for a Quit

If the separation from employment was a true voluntary quit, the general rule is that employee is disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule. Many of these rules are complicated and nuanced; the below explanations are merely guidance, not a comprehensive guide.

1. Suspension or Termination in Lieu of Another Employee’s Suspension or Termination

If you volunteer to be laid off rather than another employee, you will not be ineligible for unemployment on this basis. However, in order to qualify for this exception, you must show an identifiable, threatened suspension or termination of another employee.

2. Good Cause Attributable to the Employer

Another basis for quitting that would not disqualify an employee from receiving unemployment benefits is good cause attributable to the employer. This includes quitting because of sexual harassment, illegal acts by the employer, or dangerous working conditions.

3. Illness or Disability of the Employee or a Family Member

This exception applies if you have no reasonable choice but to quit your job because of either your own illness or disability or the illness or disability of a family member which requires you to be off work for longer than your employer is willing to accommodate. However, you must also be able and available to work in order to receive unemployment benefits; if you use this quit exception, you will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the weeks during which you are unavailable to work due to illness or disability.

4. Quit for Good Cause Within the First 30 Days of Employment

An employee may also quit within thirty days of beginning their employment if the work was not “suitable work” as defined by the unemployment statutes. Work may not be “suitable” if it pays significantly less or requires significantly less skill than your previous jobs. However, this definition of “suitable work” only applies for the first six weeks of unemployment. If you have been unemployed for seven or more weeks, “suitable work” is defined as any work that you are capable of performing.

5. Quit Due to Transfer Resulting in Lack of Child Care

If your employer transfers you to a different shift which creates a lack of childcare for your minor children, you should still be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit.

6. Resignation to Accept a Different Position

Quitting your employment will not disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits if you resigned to accept a new job pays equal or better, has equal or better hours, is for a longer term, or is significantly closer to your home than your previous job.

7. Quit Due to Domestic Abuse or Concerns About Personal Safety or Harassment

You will also not be ineligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job due to concerns about personal safety or harassment of you or of family members who reside in the same house as you OR concerns about physical abuse or threat of physical abuse of you or any family member (regardless of whether they reside with you). In order to qualify for this exception, you must present the Unemployment Division with a protective order, a law enforcement report, OR evidence of the abuse or concerns provided by a health care professional or an employee of a domestic violence shelter.

8. Quit Due to Military Spouse Relocation

Finally, if your spouse is in the military and you relocate in order to accompany your spouse to their new location, you may quit without disqualifying yourself from benefits. This exception does not apply to non-military spouses.


It is important to remember that voluntarily quitting your job will generally result in your disqualification for unemployment benefits. The above exceptions are narrowly defined and the employee has the burden to establish that they qualify for an exception to the voluntary termination rule. If you do not meet any of these exceptions, you will be ineligible for benefits until you obtain another job and earn at least six times your weekly unemployment benefit rate. However, the above exceptions provide a guide for when you may quit your job and remain eligible for unemployment benefits.

If you have been denied unemployment benefits, please contact Hawks Quindel. Our experienced attorneys may be able to help.

Amanda Kuklinski

Associate at Hawks Quindel, S.C.
Attorney Kuklinski is an associate attorney in Hawks Quindel’s Madison, Wisconsin office. Her practice focuses on worker’s compensation and employment law.