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California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) oversees unemployment insurance and state disability insurance programs. You may wonder whether you can get unemployment if you voluntarily quit your job. Ideally, most people opt to have a new job lined up before leaving their current occupation.

However, in some situations, you may choose to quit your job before securing a new position. Unfortunately, this can severely impact your ability to obtain unemployment benefits.

What Is Unemployment?

Unemployment benefits are typically available to those who are actively searching for work but unable to find employment.

Understanding the purpose of unemployment benefits assists in answering the question of whether you can collect unemployment if you quit your job.

Unemployment insurance provides unemployment benefits, typically in the form of weekly payments, to eligible workers. In California, to qualify for unemployment benefits, a worker must satisfy eligibility requirements. 

How Do I Qualify for Unemployment? 

Generally speaking, the answer to Can you collect unemployment if you quit your job? is no. The following general requirements qualify an individual for unemployment.

Minimum Earnings Requirement

California looks at your work history and earnings during your one-year base period. Qualifying for unemployment requires the following minimum earnings:

  • $1,300 in your highest-paid quarter, or 
  • $900 in your highest-paid quarter and during the entire base period, at least 1.25 your high-quarter earnings. 

A base period represents the earliest four of the last five complete quarters of the calendar year.

For example, if you file for unemployment in November 2020, the base period would be July 2019 through September 2020.

The last complete calendar quarter was July 2020 through September 2020 and the base period is the four quarters before the last full quarter. 

Unemployment Reasons 

An additional requirement qualifying a person for unemployment is that the employee involuntarily lost employment.

Currently, due to the recent global pandemic, California extended eligibility requirements to those who previously may not have qualified for unemployment benefits.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act extended the time limits for coverage.

Additional benefits under the CARES Act were extended under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) to September 6, 2021. 

Qualifying individuals receive an additional $300 a week for their unemployment benefits. The following individuals qualify for additional unemployment benefits under the CARES Act:

  • Persons diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are currently trying to get a diagnosis or experiencing symptoms;
  • Persons caring for a family member with COVID-19, or a child whose school closed due to COVID-19;
  • Persons whose employment closed due to COVID-19; and
  • Persons forced to quit solely due to COVID-19.

The Act also extended benefits to individuals owning small businesses and contractors. Despite being ineligible for general unemployment benefits, the PUA permits benefits to the following individuals:

  • Business owners,
  • Self-employed workers, 
  • Independent contractors, 
  • People with limited work history,
  • People who used all their regular unemployment insurance benefits, and
  • People serving false statement penalty weeks on their regular unemployment insurance claim. 

Qualifying individuals under PUA may collect benefits beginning when you were affected by COVID-19.   

Who Does Not Qualify for Unemployment? 

Generally speaking, there are two groups unable to qualify to receive unemployment benefits in California. These two groups include the following persons: 

  • Those quitting their jobs voluntarily, and
  • Those terminated from their jobs “for cause.”

For the first group, the question of, Can you get unemployment if you quit? is most often answered in the negative.

However, in situations where you quit your job based on harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment, your claim for unemployment may not be barred.

Additionally, in these situations, you may possess grounds to file a discrimination claim against your employer. 

The second group includes those terminated from their positions “for cause.” “For cause” refers to situations where an individual violated rules of conduct in the workplace such as failing to adhere to employer rules and policies.

It also applies to situations of misconduct. Misconduct generally refers to a breach of an important duty or obligation owed to the employer, which is found to be willful and wanton in character.

Most often, this misconduct harms or injures the employer in some way. 

Additionally, one may not qualify for unemployment for the following reasons: 

  • Lacking sufficient work history,
  • Lacking sufficient earnings, 
  • You are not able to currently work, or 
  • You are not a U.S. citizen.

Failing to complete the application for unemployment benefits also results in a denial of your claim. The letter of denial from the EDD typically includes the reason for the denial of unemployment benefits. 

Can I Appeal My Denial of Unemployment?

Denial of unemployment insurance benefits may be appealed. The time to file an appeal in California is only 30 days from the Notice of Determination and/or Ruling.

You may submit your appeal with the EDD appeal form. However, if unable to obtain a copy of the appeal form, you may submit to the EDD a letter stating your request to appeal your denial. 

The Office of Appeals notifies you at least 10 days in advance of your hearing date. An administrative law judge oversees the hearing and reviews all evidence presented.

If you plan to appeal your denial of unemployment benefits, it’s crucial to consult with an experienced employment attorney.

Gathering and presenting all appropriate evidence strengthens support for your claim. An unemployment attorney can work with you to maximize your chances of succeeding on appeal. 

Contact Us

After leaving your place of work, determining whether you can collect unemployment if you quit your job may be at the forefront of your concerns.

Circumstances may arise which prevent you from securing another job before you quit your present job, such as having to leave due to a harassing work environment.

Farzam Law Firm dedicates its practice to pursuing full remedies for employees. This includes individuals seeking answers regarding the recovery of unemployment benefits.

Our firm is composed of experienced trial attorneys with years of employment law practice. We know all the tricks and understand the complexity of the unemployment benefits law.

Answering the question, Can you collect unemployment if you quit your job? is not always clear-cut.

Contact our office today to discuss your options. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to receive unemployment benefits. Contact us today for a free case review!

Author Photo

Joseph Farzam

Mr. Farzam attended Santa Monica high school and worked at McDonald’s and local coffee shops to support himself. Although he worked 2 or 3 jobs, he valued education greatly and earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge in biology, and attended the prestigious Pepperdine University School of Law. He graduated with high marks and passed the California bar exam on the first try. Mr. Farzam has received the coveted titles of Super Lawyer, Los Angeles Magazine’s Top Lawyers, and has received The Litigator Awards.  He is a proud member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA).

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