A recently-issued unpublished decision of the District IV Court of Appeals should serve as a caution to people who hold more than one job and receive unemployment benefits. In Piontek v. LIRC, Cir. Ct. No. 2010CV2020, the appellate court on March 29, 2012, ruled that quitting a part-time job while collecting unemployment benefits after being laid off from primary employment, caused the employee to be ineligible to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

Leonard Piontek held a full-time job as a sales representative until he was laid off. He also worked a part-time job as a real estate agent. After he was laid off, Piontek received unemployment benefits for his job loss, and continued to work as a part-time real estate agent. When an opportunity arose to work for another real estate company, and likely make more money, Piontek quit his part-time job to take the new job in the same industry. He continued to receive unemployment benefits until the Department of Workforce Development determined that he was ineligible for unemployment benefits because he quit his second job. A circuit court affirmed LIRC’s affirmation of the administrative law judge’s determination that Piontek was ineligible to continue to receive benefits.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court decision saying that Section 108.04(7)(a), Wis. Stats. made Piontek ineligible for unemployment benefits because he quit his part-time real estate agent job. Piontek unsuccessfully asserted that he was not an “employee” for purposes of the statute because as a real estate agent who was compensated solely by way of commission, he was not eligible to receive unemployment benefits for that work. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument.

Ironically, Section 108.04(7)(a), Wis. Stats. permits an employee to quit his or her job to take another job and still remain eligible for unemployment benefits if the new job has a greater average weekly wage. The new job has to be work that is covered by the unemployment insurance law, which Piontek’s was not. Consequently, if a person quits a job for which he or she would not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits and takes a better-paying job that for which he or she would not be eligible unemployment benefits, the person loses eligibility for any existing unemployment benefits. The appellate court noted the inconsistency of the treatment of jobs, but refused to overturn the circuit court’s decision.

People who work two jobs should carefully consider the potential effect on eligibility for unemployment benefits before quitting any employment.

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Katherine Charlton