If I am a victim of domestic violence and was forced to leave work, can I now get unemployment?

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If I am a victim of domestic violence and was forced to leave work, can I now get unemployment?

My husband forced me to leave work and continue not to work for 4 years. I have now escaped the domestic violence by leaving both my husband and CA but I am now penniless in WA. I worked for over 20 years as a Special Education Teacher (in CA) but I wouldn’t ordinarily be eligible for unemployment benefits now because I have not worked in the last 18 months. Is their any provision under the law for my situation?

Asked on March 13, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If someone quits their job, they must do so for "good cause" if they want to be eligible to file a valid unemployment claim.  Good cause, in some states, includes leaving a job due to being a victim of domestic violence.  However, I'm not sure that your situation would qualify since you did not immediately leave your abuser; 4 years have elapsed since you terminated your employment.  However, speak with an employment law attorney to be certain of your rights. The laws vary from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately you cannot get unemployment; unemployment is only for those who lose their jobs due to the employer's actions (e.g. laid off, downsized, terminated without cause, etc.) It is not available for those who leave work for other reasons, even if such leaving was not "voluntary" in the sense that they were pressured by another person (as long at that person was not associated with the employer). You should consult with a family law attorney; it may be that you should (1) divorce your husband (if you haven't done so already) and therefore (2) may be eligible for spousal support (alimony) and some distribution of assets or property. Also contact any support or advocacy groups who women in or who escaped abusive relationship; they may know of some resources or options for you.


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