Examples of Good Cause in Voluntary Quit California

December 15, 2022

If you quit your job voluntarily, without good cause, you will not be eligible for unemployment benefits in California. However, if you are forced out or have good cause to quit, you may still be eligible for benefits, depending on the circumstances.

Each state sets its own eligibility standards for unemployment, including what constitutes "good cause" to quit. California defines good cause as: "An employee who quits for a substantial and compelling reason, whether work-related or personal, may be eligible for California unemployment benefits."

What Is Good Cause to Quit in California?

In California, good cause to quit exists when a substantial motivating factor in the employee's decision to quit was a real, and compelling reason (work-related or personal), which would cause a reasonable person who genuinely desired to continue working to leave the job under the same circumstances.

Whether an employee has good cause to voluntarily quit under this definition is determined on a case-by-case basis. Here are some reasons for quitting that California courts have found constitute good cause:

  • Caring for a family member. An employee who quits to care for a seriously ill family member may have good cause to quit if the employee's presence is necessary.
  • Relocation with a spouse. An employee who quits to move with a spouse or to move in order to marry someone and establish a home elsewhere may have good cause to quit.
  • Domestic violence. If an employee or her children have been subjected to or threatened with domestic abuse, and a transfer or leave of absence from work would not have solved the problem (for example, because the abuser has violated a restraining order), the employee may have good cause to quit.
  • Health and safety. If an employee's working conditions pose an undue risk of injury or illness, the employee may have good cause to quit.
  • Another job. An employee who quits to take other employment may have good cause to quit if the employee has a definite assurance of employment, and the new job is substantially better than -- and at least as permanent as -- the one the employee leaves. In this situation, if the new employer fails to come through with the promised job, the employee may still be able to obtain unemployment.
  • Constructive discharge. If the employee's working conditions are so unsatisfactory that they would be intolerable to a reasonable person who genuinely desired to keep working, the employee may have good cause to quit. In this situation, the law treats the employee's departure as a discharge (because the employer created the conditions that led to the end of the employment relationship) rather than a quit.

You can potentially receive unemployment in California if you have quit your job. However, the Employment Development Department criteria set out some conditions that must be met to obtain these benefits.

How to File and Collect Unemployment Benefits in California

In California—as in every other state—employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own may qualify to collect unemployment benefits. The eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state, however.

Here are the basic rules for collecting unemployment insurance in California. In California, the agency that handles unemployment benefits is called the Employment Development Department (EDD).

Unemployment Eligibility Requirements for California

You must meet three eligibility requirements to collect unemployment benefits in California:

  • Your past earnings must meet certain minimum thresholds.
  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by California law.
  • You must be able, available, and actively seeking work.

Do You Meet the Minimum Earnings Requirement?

Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year base period to determine your eligibility for unemployment. In California, the base period is usually the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your claim for benefits. For example, if you file your claim in July 2020, the base period would be from April 1, 2019, through March 31, 2020. However, if you didn't earn enough during the regular base period, the EDD will use the most recent four quarters as an alternate base period.

During the base period, you must have earned at least:

  • $1,300 in your highest-paid quarter, or
  • $900 in your highest-paid quarter and at least 1.25 times your high-quarter earnings.

Are You Out of Work Through No Fault of Your Own?

You must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Collecting Unemployment After a Layoff

If you are laid off, lose your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or get "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.

Collecting Unemployment After Being Fired

If you are fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you might be able to collect benefits. If you are fired for misconduct, however, you will generally not be eligible for unemployment benefits. In California, misconduct makes you ineligible for unemployment insurance only if all four of these statements are true:

  • You owed a "material" duty to the employer. This means a duty that is properly part of the job (this can be, for example, showing up for work and performing your job duties).
  • You substantially breached that duty (in other words, you didn't perform the duty). A minor or one-time transgression isn't enough to disqualify you from receiving benefits.
  • Your breach of duty showed a wanton or willful disregard for that duty.
  • Your breach of duty must tend to harm the employer's business interests.

Collecting Unemployment After Quitting

If you had good cause related to leaving your job (such as illegal discrimination, harassment, unsafe working conditions, or fraud by your employer), you could be eligible for unemployment benefits. In this situation, you must have taken reasonable steps to resolve the situation before quitting, which means you must have discussed the problem with your employer and allowed a reasonable amount of time for the employer to fix the situation before you left the job.

Taking Steps to Resolve the Problem Before Quitting

In most cases, an employee who wants to collect unemployment after quitting must show that he or she took steps to try to resolve the problem and preserve the relationship prior to leaving the job.

For a workplace problem, such as dangerous working conditions, the employee must bring the problem to the employer's attention and give the employer an opportunity to fix it.

For a personal problem, such as a need to care for an ill family member, the employee should explore other ways to meet the family member's needs, such as taking a leave of absence or working a reduced schedule.

Generally, an employee will be eligible for benefits only if steps to resolve the problem short of quitting are not successful.

Employment Attorney

If you've been denied unemployment benefits in California after you quit voluntarily, you may require professional help from a law firm. For more specific information related to the end of your employment relationship, visit our website.


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