Bench & Bar of Minnesota is the official publication of the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Unemployment Compensation Perils

An employee who voluntarily leaves a job without “good reason” attributable to their employer under Minn. Stat. §268.095, subd. 1(1) usually is ineligible to receive unemployment benefits for that job loss.  With a few exceptions, involving such circumstances as unremedied harassment, medical necessity, and a significant reduction in pay or benefits, employees who quit their jobs likely face loss of their unemployment benefits claims.

This tendency was exemplified in Crotty v. Leeann Chin, Inc., 2012 WL 426583 (Minn. App. 2012) (unpublished).  The employee left his job for a new position with a food service company, which withdrew its offer to him after it learned that he did not have a personal vehicle, which was necessary to fulfill duties of the position.  The employee unsuccessfully sought unemployment benefits, claiming that he fell within the exception of Minn. Stat. §268.095, subd. 1(2), which allows benefits for an employee who leaves one job for a “substantially better position” elsewhere, if the employee does not work in the new position for a sufficient time to qualify for unemployment benefits from the new employer.  The employee’s rationale for quitting the first job was that, even though the new job offered less salary and a lower potential benefit, it did not require him to work weekends, as the first job did.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals, agreeing with DEED, ruled against the employee.  The court reasoned that the “personal” reason for the employee quitting his first job was too “subjective” to qualify for the “substantially better job” provision.  Advocates for resigning employees seeking to invoke this provision may focus on wages or other emoluments to argue that a new job is “substantially better.” Employers seeking to defend against such claims should show that the position, even if superior in some ways, is not “substantially better” on other objective measures.

Marshall H. Tanick

Mansfield Tanick & Cohen, PA


One Comment

  1. Jasper Berg
    Jun 13, 2012

    Did I miss something – where is the tip? Here is a tip specific to the issue outlined above: if the worker claims they “quit” their job, they will have a more difficult time proving they are eligible for unemployment benefits because the will have the burden of showing their reasons for quitting.

    Although it might appear straight forward, the arguments are very different: in an unemployment hearing, the first issue is always whether the worker “quit” their job or was “terminated.” If the worker doesn’t agree that they “quit”, they definitely don’t want to argue they should have quit while having a good reason.

    On the other hand, if the worker quit for a “good reason”, the worker needs to prove a 4 element test: (1) the good reason was caused by the employer, (2) the reason was directly related to the worker’s employment, (3) there was a situation adverse to the worker, and (4) the situation would cause an average, reasonable worker to quit too and become unemployed.

    Thus, the tip is this: if you can make an argument why the worker didn’t quit and was constructively discharged- it is likely going to be a stronger argument given the number of hoops the worker will have to prove if they indeed quit for a “good reason.”

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