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Washington Expands Grounds for “Good Cause” Resignations Allowing Employees to Collect Unemployment Benefits



Generally speaking, employees who resign are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Washington, however, has several exceptions to this general rule in which an employee who had “good cause” to resign is eligible for unemployment benefits.

On May 4, 2023, Governor Inslee signed ESHB 1106, which expands existing, and creates additional, “good cause” resignation grounds under the unemployment system.

Related to Care of Family

Death, Illness, or Disability of a Family Member. Current law already provides that if an employee necessarily quits due to the death, illness, or disability of an immediate family member, that is “good cause” and they are not disqualified from unemployment benefits. Beginning September 3, 2023, this exception is expanded to death, illness, or disability of any family member, not just “immediate” family members.

Employee Unable to Access Care for Child or Vulnerable Adult in the Employee’s Care. For any separation from July 7, 2024, through July 8, 2029, an employee is not disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if their resignation was necessary because they were unable to access care for a child or vulnerable adult in their care. Benefits paid under this “good cause” are not charged directly to the employer but are instead paid out of the general Unemployment Insurance fund.

For both of these “good cause” reasons, the employee must have (a) made reasonable efforts to preserve employment by requesting accommodating changes in working conditions or work schedules, or by requesting a leave of absence and promptly notifying the employer of the reason for the absence and promptly requesting a return to employment when able to do so, and (b) the employee must have terminated the employment and not be entitled to reinstatement to the same, or comparable, position.

Relocation of Minor Child. 

Beginning July 7, 2024, an employee has “good cause” and is not disqualified from unemployment benefits if they resign to follow a minor child who has relocated outside the employee’s labor market, provided that the employee had parental rights over the minor child at the time of the job separation, and the employee remained employed as long as reasonable prior to relocating. Benefits allowed for this reason are not charged directly to the employer but are instead paid out of the general Unemployment Insurance fund.

Involuntary Shift Changes.

Beginning July 7, 2024, an employee has “good cause” to resign if their regularly scheduled start or end times are changed by the employer by at least six hours on a non-temporary basis. For this “good cause” exception to apply, the employee must have had a regularly scheduled shift/split shift for the prior 90 days, and the change in shift must not be based on a seniority system or due to a request by the employee.

Key Takeaways

If an employee requests changes to a work schedule or other working conditions, or a leave of absence due to the death, illness, or disability of a family member, or the need to care for a dependent child or vulnerable adult because they cannot access other care, the employer should consider reasonable accommodations or leaves of absences for the employee. Likewise, before involuntarily changing shift start and end times for an employee, an employer should consider whether the change is worth the risk of a charge to the employer’s unemployment account.

The legal issues impacting this topic are and will continue to be ever-changing (Employment Law in Motion!), and since publication of this blog post, new or additional information not referenced in this blog post may be available.

This article is provided for informational purposes only—it does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader. Readers should consult legal counsel before taking action relating to the subject matter of this article.

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