Is it Better to Get Fired or Quit to Collect Unemployment Benefits?

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Regardless of the state, unemployment benefits are only for those who are unemployed through no fault of their own based on the federal regulations. When you apply for benefits, the state asks you to explain the reason you separated from your last job. Qualifying job separation reasons can vary by state and by whether you quit or were fired. Generally it's better to be fired with a qualifying reason than to quit with one.

Job Separation Requirement

  • The universal unemployment eligibility requirement is that your job separation reason must be through no fault of your own. The reason you left your last job has to be attributable to your employer or a situation under your employer's control. When you file your initial unemployment claim, your state's labor office contacts your last employer to verify the reason you gave for the job separation. If there is any question of eligibility, your state will request further information from the party who has the burden of proof.

Unemployment If You Quit

  • If you quit your job, you can only collect unemployment if there is cause for you to leave. What qualifies as just cause depends on the state in which you live, but in almost all states it's limited to the employer violating any labor laws. In some states, exceptions can be made for those who must leave a job to follow a military spouse's transfer. For the complete list of just cause that applies in your state, contact your state's labor office.

Unemployment if You're Fired

  • When your employer initiates your job separation, you can only collect unemployment if you were not fired for cause. In this case, cause is usually some action of yours that leads to the termination. Excessive tardiness, insubordination, or theft are all examples of reasons your employer can fire you without eligibility for unemployment benefits. On the other hand, if your employer fired you because he couldn't afford to pay you or didn't get along with you personally, you may still remain eligible for benefits.

Which is Better?

  • If there is any question of whether the job separation qualifies for unemployment, the state may request further information to help make a determination. The burden of proving the job separation falls on the party who initiated the job separation. So if you quit your job, it's best to quit due to cause. On the other hand, if you are fired, it's best to be fired with no cause. Between the two scenarios, it's better to be fired than quit because the burden of proof falls on the employer instead of yourself.

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