“Good Cause” for Resignation & Unemployment

Oregon law disqualifies individuals from collecting unemployment insurance if they “voluntarily left work without good cause.”  Generally, “good cause” for voluntarily leaving work “is such that a reasonable and prudent person of normal sensitivity,exercising ordinary common sense, would leave work.” OAR 471-030-0038(4).  An individual’s reason for quitting “must be of such gravity that the individual has no reasonable alternative but to leave work.” OAR 471-030-0038(4).

The Oregon Court of Appeals recently clarified when an employee has “good cause” to quit (and thus is entitled to unemployment).  In Nielsen v. Employment Dept., et al, the employee worked for almost a year without being paid overtime.  The employee was underpaid every week she worked.  The employee was afraid to complain about her pay because she had witnessed her boss yelling and getting into violent altercations with other employees who complained about their wages.  The employee also felt that continuing to work while seeking redress through BOLI did not make sense because she would be exposed to continued under payment pending resolution of her BOLI claim.  The Court found that under these circumstances, a reasonable and prudent person of normal sensitivity, exercising ordinary common sense, would not have continued to work indefinitely for employer, and thus that the Employment Appeals Board conclusion that the employee quit without good cause was in error. http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A150925.pdf

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