Quit First, Fired Later: Unemployment Benefits After Giving Notice
Author: Dustin Wetton
During these difficult economic times, many of us are changing our employment status to seek better economic opportunities. Thus, some of you might be inspired to quit your job for whatever reason and seek employment elsewhere or just take time off. In doing so, lets say that you are respectful to your employer and you give them your 2 week notice. Yet, what happens if that employer is so insulted by you quitting that after you give your notice, they fire you instead. Does this mean you were fired or you quit? What happens if you only had one day left on your notice and they “let you go early?" Questions like these are often asked to employment law attorneys who are helping those recently unemployed receive unemployment benefits. However, I believe that the same logic can be applied to severance pay and other “benefits" of being let go from a job.
Unemployment benefits are normally only allowed to those that leave their job involuntarily. Meaning, if you quit your job because you wanted another job, or just wanted to, then you most likely are not able to receive unemployment benefits. Yet, under California law, if you give notice of your last day and your employer cuts that day short, then you are qualified as leaving involuntarily, even though you intended on leaving a couple of days, or weeks or months, later. If you give notice and they fire you prior to that notice date, “or let you leave early" then you are defined as being “fired" under California law.
In one case the Unemployment Appeals Board held that “the fact that a person may set a date for resigning from employment is not the controlling factor. The most pertinent consideration is whether the employee could have remained working for an employer on the actual date they left." If they could have continued working, were willing and able to do so, but the employer was not willing them to do so, then they consider it as an involuntary discharge. Thus, if this would happen to you, then you would be eligible for unemployment benefits. Using this same logic, I believe it can also be argued that you would be entitled to the same benefits of severance pay and other “fire-triggered" benefits that are owed to you in regards to your employment contract. Thus, just because you were quitting, gave notice, and were “let go early", you may still have certain important rights and decisions to make regarding how to handle any transition periods in your employment.