Written by attorney Anthony Graceson Laramore

I am sick and had to quit my job....can I get unemployment benefits?

If an illness has caused you to leave your job, it is likely you are entitled to unemployment benefits. In 2008, the Missouri Supreme Court fundamentally changed the law regarding unemployment insurance benefits, allowing sick individuals who would have previously been disqualified to receive benefits.

In Missouri, eligibility for unemployment insurance is governed by section 288 of the Missouri Revised Statutes and the rules and regulations promulgated by the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission, Division of Employment Security. The Missouri statute on unemployment insurance, section 288.050.1, disqualifies an individual from receiving unemployment insurance benefits if “the claimant has left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to such work or to the claimant's employer."

Prior to 2008, Missouri courts interpreted the language of the statute to mean that leaving the job because of a personal illness was voluntarily quitting and disqualified the employee from benefits. That is, unless the court found that there was a causal connection between an employee’s illness and their work the employee was not entitled to benefits. So, a personal illness of an employee, unrelated to their job, would not render termination involuntary unless the illness was caused or aggravated by the employer. Thus, an individual who had a personal illness, and as a result was unable to work, could not receive unemployment benefits unless the employee could prove that the condition was caused, or made worse by, the employee’s job. However, this all changed in 2008.

In 2008, the Missouri Supreme Court decided a case called Difatta-Wheaton v. Dolphin Capital Corp. The Supreme Court supplanted old approaches to determining if an employee had voluntarily left work when a personal illness is involved. Rather than disqualifying an employee from benefits because the illness was not caused, or made worse by, the employee’s job, the Supreme Court held that an employee is entitled to unemployment benefits if 1) the employee suffers from a personal illness which is the reason that they cannot work and 2) the employee takes necessary and reasonable steps, considering the circumstances and uncontrollable factors that result from their illness, to preserve their employment.

What does this mean for you? If you are sick and cannot work you should notify your employer. Secondly, you should give your employer a reasonable opportunity to find you a new position which accommodates your illness. Moreover, if you have already left your job because of an illness and were denied benefits, you need to contact an attorney. Even though the law has changed, the Labor & Industrial Relations Commission has, in some instances, continued to apply the old law and wrongfully deny benefits. At Going & Laramore, our attorneys have appealed multiple denials of unemployment benefits and brought about successful resolutions to our client's cases. We have several types of fee structures, and will even accept some unemployment cases on a contingency fee basis. If you have been denied unemployment benefits contact our office today.

phone: (314)241-0999

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