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My company is ordering me to perform unethical and likely illegal behavior. Can I quit and receive unemployment?

Van Nuys, CA |

I work in the finance department of a company that's in financial distress and is trying to stay afloat. I'm being ordered, almost daily, by the CFO and my boss to send misleading or incomplete documents to a bank that is funding the company, in order for our company to receive advance funding. I've been with the company for over six years and this process started a few months ago. Both the CFO and my boss know I'm not comfortable doing this and I've been uncooperative at times. It causes a huge moral dilemma for me. I've reached my breaking point and need to quit, but I don't want to be without income. If I resign from my job due to these circumstances, how likely is it that unemployment will be granted? Need to know ASAP. Thank you!

Attorney Answers 2


Don't put yourself in legal jeopardy by continuing with any conduct that may well be unlawful. If you quit and apply for unemployment, you will get it unless your former employer objects. Under these circumstances, your former employer may be inhibited from objecting. If not, there are any number of outstanding employment and labor attorneys here in Southern CA who can assist you in making your case for unemployment benefits. Email me for a reliable name or two. I keep good lists of good lawyers, and I would much rather be referring you to some excellent employment attorneys than to an excellent criminal defense attorney.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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Yes, quite possibly. In California, in order to be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, you need to have been unemployed through no fault of your own. When an individual files a claim for UI benefits, the EDD documents the reason the individual is no longer working, and includes it in the Notice of Claim Filed, DE 1101CZ, which is mailed to the last employer. The employer may also provide written information about the reason the individual is no longer working when responding to this notice.

If the individual quit, the EDD will conduct a telephone interview with the individual and the employer approximately two weeks after the claim is filed to determine whether or not the individual is eligible for UI benefits, according to state law and regulations.

California law provides that an individual who quits his/her job may be eligible for UI benefits provided there was "good cause" for leaving employment, and the individual made all reasonable attempts to keep their job (e.g., request of leave of absence or transfer). Once all reasonable alternatives to leaving have been attempted, good cause may include situations such as leaving work due to unsafe working conditions, leaving work based on a medical doctor's advice, or leaving work to protect oneself or one's child from domestic violence.

The EDD staff will determine on a case-by-case basis, whether the facts presented for the quit are "good cause" according to state law. Of course, the individual must also meet all other eligibility requirements before UI benefits can be paid.

The EDD’s law and policy guidelines regarding "Voluntary Quits" are available on the EDD Web site at:

Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.

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