Can I Get Unemployment Benefits If I Quit My Job?

Can I Get Unemployment Benefits If I Quit My Job?
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Last updated: August 2015

The following questions were submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "Q&A: The Law," runs in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Illinois Edition) and the Champaign News Gazette.  This article was published on June 3, 2009


My employer cut my hourly wage. So, I quit. I applied for unemployment. I was denied for quitting. How can I qualify for benefits?  


If you had “good cause” for quitting, you may qualify for unemployment benefits.  A reduction in pay can be “good cause.” It will depend on the facts of your case and the size of the pay cut. Appeal the denial if you have not already done so. 

There are two main reasons for denying unemployment: you quit, or were fired. The state considers it your fault that you are unemployed.  Only involuntary unemployment qualifies for benefits. If you could or should have avoided unemployment, you may not qualify. But, if it was your employer’s fault that you quit, you are eligible. 

Factors for 'good cause' include  

  • Changed terms, conditions, or hours of employment
  • Reduction in pay  

If you take a pay cut for several months, and then quit, the pay cut is NOT good cause.  

An hourly wage cut is the clearest kind of reduced pay. It is trickier when the hours are reduced. Some cases say that reduced hours in light of general economic circumstances, are not good cause for quitting.

Simply being unhappy with your pay is not good cause. For example, quitting after not getting the raise you wanted is good reason for ineligibility.

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