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"You Can't Fire Me; I Quit!" Perhaps So, But This Kind of Quitting is Not for Good Cause That Qualifies for Unemployment Compensation Benefits

November 2013

By: Phoebe A. Taurick, Esq.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently reiterated that an employee who quits her or his employment when the proverbial axe is about to fall, does not quit for "good reason" sufficient to qualify for unemployment benefits. In Sowe v. Park Nicollet Clinic, Ms. Sowe received a written warning, which according to Park Nicollet's policy rendered her ineligible to transfer to another position within the organization for six months. Because she was not able to transfer, she claimed her work schedule would conflict with her class schedule, which could lead to her termination in the future.

A good reason caused by the employer for quitting, thus rendering an applicant eligible for unemployment benefits, is defined as "a reason: (1) that is directly related to the employment and for which the employer is responsible; (2) that is adverse to the worker; and (3) that would compel an average, reasonable worker to quit and become unemployed rather than remaining in the employment." The court held that the fact that the applicant in this case may have been on the cusp of being terminated in the future was not a "good reason caused by the employer" for quitting as defined by Minnesota law. As a result, Ms. Sowe was not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Employers should keep in mind that whenever an employee beats them to the punch and resigns to avoid being terminated, there is a winning basis to challenge eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits.