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Reason for Quitting Is Key for Jobless Benefits

January 14, 2002

Question: I am frustrated with my work and am contemplating leaving shortly.

If I leave on my own, can I still apply for and receive unemployment payments until I have found a new job?

--M.H., Palm Springs

Answer: Normally, you are not entitled to state unemployment benefits if you resign. You might qualify, however, if you could argue that your resignation was not really voluntary because of an inappropriate workplace situation.

For example, if you left because of employer discrimination, illegal activities, failure to pay wages or failure to comply with other workplace laws, your resignation would be considered involuntary. No one could be expected to work in that type of environment.

Of course, if any of those events occurred during the course of employment and you were forced to resign, you may also have a "constructive wrongful termination" claim for damages against the employer, in addition to the claim for unemployment benefits from the state.

It is always better to do your homework before making a major decision such as terminating your employment. It's best to evaluate the financial consequences of your resignation, even consulting with an attorney, before departing.

--Don D. Sessions

Employee rights attorney

Mission Viejo


No Legal Obligation to Divulge New Employer

Q: After submitting my resignation at the travel agency where I work, I have been approached several times by the owner and manager, asking the name of my new employer.

Am I obligated to tell them?

I have chosen not to say, which leads them to believe that I will be taking accounts with me. I have no contract.

--I.H., Thousand Oaks

A: You have no legal obligation to tell the travel agency the name of the company where you will be working next.

However, whether or not you have a contract with the travel agency, you do have a legal obligation not to use trade secret information belonging to the travel agency for your own benefit or for the benefit of your new employer.

This obligation may make it unlawful to take accounts with you.

--Deborah C. Saxe

Management attorney

Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe


Manipulation of Resume Is Never a Good Idea

Q: A good friend just moved back to California and is looking for a job.

He is what I call a victim of the hired-gun syndrome. He gets hired and paid big bucks to fix a problem--and once it's fixed, he's let go. He wants to manipulate his resume and I disagree.

What's your view?

--R.C., Anaheim

A: You are absolutely correct. Under no circumstances should your friend manipulate his resume.

In the most visible example recently, George O'Leary lost his job as Notre Dame's football coach over "manipulations" of his resume.

Many companies conduct thorough background checks on potential employees, so it is possible to get caught.

But fear of getting caught should not be the main reason to be honest and straightforward on a resume. Integrity and honesty are the most highly valued characteristics for people in professional and leadership positions, and your friend should consider the potential damage to his professional reputation.

Moreover, being honest is simply the right thing to do.

--Ron Riggio, director

Kravis Leadership Institute

Claremont McKenna College


Retirement Benefits at Risk if Laid Off?

Q: I became eligible for early retirement at my company but decided to continue working. If my employer decides to lay me off because of a slowdown in business, can I retire instead so I can get the retirement benefits?

--D.A., Laguna Hills

A: You need to review the provisions in your retirement plan's "summary plan description," which your employer was required to give you. That document will explain your eligibility for retirement benefits.

Under most plans, your retirement benefits would not be decreased if you were to be laid off rather than to retire voluntarily.

In fact, some plans provide for enhanced retirement benefits if you are laid off because of events such as a plant closure.

--Kirk F. Maldonado

Employee benefits attorney

Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison

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