LAW ALERT: CA Employees Who Resign for Childcare Reasons May Qualify for Unemployment Benefits
Published: June 22, 2011
Employees in California generally are not eligible for state unemployment benefits if they quit their jobs voluntarily. However, if the employee resigns for reasons related to childcare, he or she may still qualify for such benefits under the EDD’s regulations. Childcare-related resignations often stem from changes in the employee’s domestic circumstances; for example, when the employee has separated or divorced from a spouse. Such resignations may also result from the employee’s daycare provider becoming unable to continue performing such services; for example, if a daycare center closes its doors or if a relative, neighbor, or friend of the employee who watched the child is no longer available to do so.
Under EDD regulations, good cause for quitting may be “based on domestic circumstances if the [employee]’s obligation is of a real, substantial, and compelling nature such as would cause a reasonable person genuinely desirous of retaining employment to take similar action.” (Cal. Code Regs., title 22, section 1256-9(b).) This exception may apply so long as the reason for quitting “is due to a legal or moral obligation.”
The EDD recognizes that providing or arranging for childcare is a parent’s legal or moral obligation. Thus, the employee’s eligibility for unemployment benefits usually will depend upon his or her childcare options. According to the EDD, “under normal circumstances, arranging care with neighbors, relatives, friends, a nursery school, or daycare service are considered practical alternatives to quitting [a job].” Moreover, EDD guidelines specify that an employee has good cause to quit only if he or she “has explored all childcare options and is left with no practical alternative to quitting.”
In that vein, the EDD may decline to find good cause if the employee’s childcare options are not unworkable but merely undesirable; for example, if the distance from home or work to an alternate childcare provider is somewhat greater but not excessively far. Similarly, an employee typically will not qualify for unemployment benefits if he or she quits simply because the cost of childcare is too high. Under the guidelines, the cost of childcare “is usually not a consideration in deciding if a claimant had good cause for quitting.” However, the EDD has signaled that “special circumstances may arise” if the cost of available childcare is “exceptional and unreasonable.”
To avoid resignations for childcare-related reasons, employers may consider various options; for example, modifying an employee’s shift, transferring the employee to another worksite, or utilizing a telecommuting arrangement. When an employee quits on account of childcare options without giving the employer an opportunity to contemplate such alternatives, or if the employer believes the employee has not explored or unreasonably rejected other childcare options, the employer may consider challenging the employee’s application for unemployment benefits.