If an employee quits his/her job, the employee is not eligible for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania unless he/she had a necessitous and compelling reason to resign. Here is my Video discussing Pennsylvania unemployment quit law:
Volunteering for a lay-off or to be part of a reduction in force is not a necessitous and compelling reason to quit a job in Pennsylvania so, if you do so, you will not be entitled to unemployment compensation.
My Employer Said it Would Not Contest My Pennsylvania Unemployment Claim if I Agreed a Lay-Off or To Be Part of a Reduction in Force. What Does That Mean?
When you apply for unemployment benefits, the Unemployment Service Center will immediately write to your employer to confirm your wages and the reason that you are no longer employed. Correctly believing that it is required to provide such truthful information to the Service Center, the company truthfully states that you voluntarily accepted a RIF. In the employer's mind, and in fact, merely telling the Service Center these facts does not constitute "contesting your claim."
What Happens in a Unemployment Hearing in Pennsylvania if My Employer Said It Would Not Fight My Claim?
In such circumstances, the Service Center will likely deny your claim on the grounds that you quit without legally sufficient justification. You will then have to appeal, and go to an Unemployment Hearing before a Referee.
You might think that, if the employer honors its word and does not come to the Hearing to "contest" your claim, you will be out of the woods and sure to prevail.
However, that is not the case.
In voluntary quit cases, the burden of proof is on the employee to prove that he/she had good reason to quit (see Video). Hence, the employer's failure to appear at the Hearing, while helpful, is in no way dispositive.
The Referee will ask you questions in order to determine whether you meet the quit standard for unemployment eligibility.
If I Accept a Voluntary Layoff, Can I Get Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?
The key in these type cases, and the issue the Referee will explore in detail, is whether you were in line for immediate termination if you did not accept the voluntary RIF. Unless you were slated for immediate termination (absent accepting the voluntary RIF), accepting the voluntary RIF will be deemed to be a quit "without necessitous and compelling reason," and you will be ineligible for benefits.
What is Better, Severance or Unemployment Benefits?
Notwithstanding the above, you might want to accept the RIF even if you do not think you will ultimately be entitled to unemployment. That analysis could depend on the amount of severance, etc., the company is offering to you if you voluntary quit, versus the amount you would get if, down the road, you are part of an involuntary RIF. This is a question you should explore with HR if the situation presents itself.
So, you need to do the math, and consider your own career goals, financial circumstances, etc., when considering the employer's offer.
However, you should not assume that your right to unemployment will be unchallenged if you volunteer for a RIF. It may well be, even if the employer had agreed not to contest your claim.
|Providing Legal Guidance to Pennsylvania Workers Since 1991|
John A. Gallagher is an employment lawyer who represents employees in Pennsylvania.
John typically represents employees who need an employment lawyer in Philadelphia County, Chester County, Delaware County, Bucks County, Berks County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.
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