“Resigned due to stress, overwork and burn out. Can I get unemployment?”

Question: I am a 7-year employee who has never gotten into trouble. I put in my resignation due to stress, being overburdened with more tasks than anyone could accomplish, having to teach new employees and, at the same time, take care of patients.

After I left, they hired three people to do my job, and that does not count the HR Director, who is now doing the training part.

I was burnt out and overworked. Can I get unemployment?

Avon, Indiana

Answer: Dear KZ: Your question is very, very common, and more and more common every day. As noted below, you won’t know if you are eligible for unemployment benefits unless and until you apply:  

1. Your state, Indiana, follows the general rule: whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits depends on why you are unemployed. On the one hand, your employment might have been terminated at the decision of your employer. If your employer terminated your employment “without cause,” meaning for such reasons as layoff, plant closing, job elimination, restructuring or the like, then you are eligible for unemployment benefits. If your employer terminated your employment “for cause,” meaning that you engaged in bad conduct (such as theft, assault, tardiness, insubordination, etc.) then you are ineligible.

On the other hand, you might have been the one who made the decision to terminate the relation. In fact, this is what you describe as having happened. If you resigned “without good cause,” that is just because you wanted to pursue a hobby, or to return to school, or to retire, then you are ineligible for unemployment benefits. If you resigned “with good cause,” that would make you eligible.

2. Here are the reasons that the Indiana Department of Workforce Development cites as “good cause” to leave your job and still be eligible for unemployment benefits: (a) if your employer unreasonably changes the terms and conditions of your work; (b) if there are safety violations at your work site; (c) if you have been the subject of harassment; (d) due to domestic or family violence; (e) if you are moving to follow your spouse who has been relocated by his or her employer; (f) military service; or (g) other such reasons of a similar nature.

3. Whether your facts and circumstances are considered “good cause” for your resignation will be determined on how well you describe the difficulties you encountered on the job. In your note to me, you said you were “overworked.” Does this mean an extra 30 minutes a day, or an extra 3 hours a day? Did it risk harm to your patients? Did it risk harm to your health? In your note to me, you described stress. Did it affect your sleep, your digestion, your vision, your blood pressure? If you include these kinds of details, and graphic images of what happened, you will be far more likely to be given unemployment benefits. The words “stress” and “overworked” are not near as powerful as the specific details you might provide.

The inability to assist patients the way patients are entitled to be treated may, in fact, constitute a “safety violation,” which is a listed “good cause” for resignation. The same thing would probably go for any danger to your own health – for example, not providing you with clothing or masks necessary to protect your own health – that took place.

As I often say, “Specificity yields credibility, and credibility means convincing.”

4. Also, it would help if you described the reasonable efforts you may have used to address the situation, in case your employer claims “She never complained to us.” Unemployment officials are far more likely to help others if they see that the others have first tried to help themselves. That is just human nature. Your note to me did not describe any such efforts, but something tells me that you did, in fact, try really hard before resigning to resolve the situation. Make sure you bring these to the attention of those who may review your application for unemployment benefits.

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5. It is for people like you, in situations like yours, that we strongly suggest our own invention called the “Involuntary Resignation.” Imagine, for the moment, that in your resignation letter you said “I am not resigning voluntarily, but I must do so (a) for my health, or (b) for safety reasons, or (c) because I am being terribly harassed, or (d) you have unreasonably altered my hours, pay and duties.” That would be very helpful to you when applying for unemployment benefits right now. In fact, that is really what did happen to you: your resignation was far from voluntary. 

It might be helpful, for the future, to become familiar with the Involuntary Resignation concept. I wrote a newsletter on this very topic some time ago entitled “Involuntary Resignation – Standing Up, Not Giving Up, to an Intolerable Situation at Work.” You can read it by simply [click here.]

I’ve also done a YouTube video on this same subject, entitled “Involuntary Termination: Leaving Without Losing.” If interested in viewing it [click here.]

For those who would like to present an Involuntary Resignation, but don’t know “What to Say and How to Say It,™” we offer a “Model Involuntary Resignation” letter that you can use. To obtain a copy – Delivered Instantly by Email – just [click here.] “What to Say and How to  Say It”™ 24 Hours a Day.

6. More information about unemployment benefits and eligibility in Indiana can be found at www.in.gov/dwd/files/Claimant_Handbook.pdf. I have reviewed the website of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, and have found it to be unusually helpful, clear and organized. Why don’t you give it a look-over.  

KZ, as I said at the beginning of this answer, you won’t know if you are eligible for unemployment benefits until you apply. Even if you are turned down, I suggest you should appeal. But one thing is for sure: give it your best try, and be your own best advocate. Be specific, be thorough, and be convincing. That’s the way to do it. 

Very Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: Looking for a New Job? We offer a 152-Point Master Checklist of Employment Negotiation Items to help you make sure you have not (a) forgotten to ask for anything, (b) failed to raise any issues, and (c) that your interests are protected in your offer letter and/or employment contract. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

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© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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