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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Jobs and Employment > Unemployment Insurance > Voluntary Quit and Misconduct

Voluntary Quit


According to New Jersey’s unemployment law, a worker is disqualified from unemployment benefits if they “left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to the work.” This generally means that, if you leave your job voluntarily, you will be disqualified from benefits unless you had a compelling work-related reason for quitting.

If you chose to leave your job, your reasons for quitting will determine whether you can get unemployment benefits. If you quit your job without a good reason related to the work, you will be disqualified from unemployment benefits until you find new work, work in a new job for at least eight weeks (earning at least ten times your Weekly Benefit Rate), and then lose the new job through no fault of your own.

To get unemployment benefits after voluntarily leaving a job, you have the burden of proving that you left for “good cause attributable to the work.” “Good cause attributable to the work” means a reason directly related to your job that was so compelling that any reasonable person would have made the same decision to leave. The unemployment law requires that you act reasonably to try and resolve problems at work before resigning, so the Unemployment Division will ask you what you did to try to resolve the problem before leaving. For example, if you quit your job because you were being harassed at work, did you report the harassment to a supervisor or someone with the authority to do something about it? If your working conditions were unsafe, did you let management know so they could try to correct the situation? If you didn’t report the problem, can you prove that it would have been useless to do so?

As stated above, you are expected to take reasonable steps to preserve your employment, but you are not expected to tolerate unreasonable, unsafe, or unhealthy working conditions. If you leave your job for multiple reasons, you will not be disqualified for voluntarily leaving work without good cause as long as at least one of the reasons is considered “good cause attributable to the work.”

The sections below address some common situations in which people leave their jobs voluntarily.

Personal Reasons

Unemployment law considers certain situations to be “personal” and therefore subject to a disqualification from benefits for voluntarily leaving the job without good cause connected to the work. The following reasons are generally considered personal under New Jersey’s unemployment law:

  1. Leaving work to start your own business;
  2. Leaving work to follow a family member who is moving away;
  3. Leaving work because you have no child care;
  4. Leaving work because you don’t have transportation to work;
  5. Leaving work to attend school;
  6. Leaving work because you lost your housing;
  7. Leaving work to relocate for personal reasons;
  8. Leaving work for a voluntary retirement;
  9. Leaving work because you were incarcerated (except where a person loses their job due to being incarcerated pretrial and then being released without an indictment)

*Note: Where the employer—not the worker—is responsible for the situation (like a loss of childcare resulting from the employer changing a worker’s shift or the loss of transportation when an employer ceases to provide transportation to the job), the worker may be eligible for benefits. It all depends on the facts of the case.

Leaving Your Job to Take a Better Job

Sometimes, a person resigns from one job to take a better job, but then the second job doesn’t work out and they are separated from the second job before they have worked enough or earned enough to establish a new unemployment claim. In that situation, a person will be eligible to receive unemployment benefits only if:

  1. They started (or were supposed to start) the new job within seven days of leaving the old job*; AND
  2. The worker made (or was supposed to make) at least as much money in the new job as the old OR the person worked (or was supposed to work) at least as many hours in the new job as in the old.

*Note: If the worker tells the first employer that he intends to resign on a specific date and the first employer then fires him before that date, the seven-day period begins on the worker’s planned/specified last day of work.

Unsafe Working Conditions

Leaving work due to conditions that are unsafe or unhealthy may constitute ”good cause” for voluntarily leaving one’s job. Employers are required to provide workplaces that are reasonably safe and healthy, but workers are also expected to bring health/safety concerns to the attention of their employers before leaving the job. If your working conditions were unsafe or unhealthy, you made efforts to improve the conditions (for example, by informing your supervisor), and the situation did not get any better, you may be eligible for benefits if you leave the job. If you left your job because you felt the conditions were unhealthy or unsafe, though, you must be prepared to show that:

  1. The working conditions were objectively unsafe or unhealthy; AND
  2. You attempted to resolve the problem by bringing it to the attention of a supervisor or someone in a position of authority; AND
  3. Despite your reasonable efforts to resolve the situation, your employer failed to take sufficient steps to improve the conditions at work.

Example of a claimant who will likely NOT get benefits: Joe worked in an office that was cold and moldy. The conditions in his office made him sick. He complained to his co-worker about the conditions and brought in a heater. Months later, he decided he just couldn’t take working in that moldy office anymore and he quit. Will Joe be eligible for unemployment benefits? Probably not, because he never brought the problem to the attention of his employer, so he never gave the employer an opportunity to fix the problem. Complaining only to his coworker, who had no authority to improve the conditions, shows that Joe did not take reasonable steps to preserve his job. A reasonable person would have notified the employer of the unhealthy conditions.

Example of a claimant who WILL likely get benefits: Kenji worked as an electric machine operator in a building where the roof leaked, leaving pools of water on the floor. Kenji told the manager that it was unsafe to operate the machine with standing water nearby, and he showed his boss a manual that warned against using the machine near water. The boss told him that his job was to operate the machine, and if he didn’t like it he could quit. Kenji had a good, work-related reason for quitting, since the conditions at his workplace were objectively unsafe. He should get unemployment benefits.

Leaving Work for Medical Reasons

If you left work because of a disability that has a work-related origin, you should be eligible for benefits as long as there was no other suitable work that you could have done within the limits of your disability. In this situation, you will have to present medical documentation of your disability and demonstrate that your employer was unable to provide you with accommodations for your disability. 

If you left work because of a medical condition (physical and/or mental) that was aggravated by your job (not necessarily caused by your job), you may be eligible for benefits as long as there was no other suitable work that you could have done within the limits of your disability. You will have to present medical documentation of your condition, preferably in the form of a note from your doctor/medical provider. The note should explain, if possible, that the medical provider recommends you leave the job in order to improve your symptoms. To access benefits, you will also have to demonstrate that your employer was unable to provide you with work to accommodate your disability. Often, this is accomplished by explaining that you asked your employer for other, more suitable work, but none was available.

If you were terminated because your health problems made you miss work, you should be eligible for unemployment benefits as long as you can show that you took reasonable efforts to preserve your job while out. In other words, if you had to miss work because of health problems, but you kept your employer informed of the situation and made reasonable efforts to keep your job, you should be able to get unemployment benefits. Reasonable efforts to preserve your job may include calling your employer regularly to keep them up-to-date on your condition and expected return date, submitting doctor’s notes to your employer, and/or requesting a leave of absence.

Domestic Violence

If you are a victim of domestic violence and you quit work or were discharged because of circumstances related to the abuse, you may be eligible for benefits. Such circumstances may include relocating to escape your abuser, leaving work because of constant harassment at work by the abuser, and other situations. To qualify under this provision, you must show any of the following documentation:

  • A restraining order or other court order preventing the abuser from disturbing you;
  • A police record documenting domestic violence;
  • Documentation that the abuser was convicted of a domestic violence crime;
  • Medical documentation of domestic violence by a licensed medical practitioner;
  • Certification that you are a victim from a Domestic Violence Specialist (a person certified by the New Jersey Association of Domestic Violence Professionals) or director of a domestic violence prevention agency (a county organization providing services to victims through the Division of Child Protection and Permanency);
  • Documentation from a social worker, clergy member, shelter worker, or other professional who helped you deal with the abuse.


It is unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, pregnancy, religion, national origin, age (over 40), disability, marital status, and sexual orientation. If someone at work was discriminating against you, that may be “good cause” for quitting. Document all discriminatory actions or comments as well as who witnessed them. In the cases of disability and religion, the law may require the employer to take extra steps to accommodate you or to help you to do your job. You may also file a claim with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights or take other legal steps to challenge the discriminatory treatment.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination and may be good cause for quitting. If you left work due to sexual harassment, make a list of incidents, witnesses (with dates, if possible), and steps you took to address the situation while it’s fresh in your mind in case you are questioned about it later.

Your Employer Changes the Terms of Your Employment

If your employer changed the terms of your employment significantly or offered you a different position, and you resigned rather than accepting the new terms or position, you may be able to collect unemployment benefits. You must demonstrate, though, that the new job terms (like wages, hours, job duties, job location, or other conditions of work) were substantially different from those promised at the time of hire. If you are in this situation and apply for unemployment benefits, the NJDOL will determine whether  the new work offered to you was “suitable.” Your personal circumstances may be considered in determining if the work was suitable for you (for example, child care is generally considered a “personal” issue for unemployment purposes, but if you lose child care due to the employer changing your shift, that may render the new offer of work “unsuitable.”) If the new terms were “unsuitable,” you will receive benefits. But, if the NJDOL finds that you refused an offer of suitable new work, you will be disqualified from benefits for four weeks. The following are some examples of “unsuitable” offers of new work:

  • The new terms make the job unhealthy or unsafe;
  • The new terms make it difficult for you to work;
  • You are not trained or qualified for the new job duties;
  • The new wages amount to less than 80% of what you were making before (you can include the value of lost benefits in your calculation);
  • The new wages, hours, or other conditions of work offered are substantially less favorable than those prevailing for similar work in the labor market area;
  • The new terms are offered to you as a result of a strike, lockout, or other labor dispute;
  • The new terms require you to leave or join a union, and you don’t want to;
  • The new terms violate your sincerely held religious beliefs.

Example: Kai's employer decided to close his store a half hour earlier every weekday, cutting her hours from 40 to 37½ per week. This is likely NOT a good, work-related reason to quit, since the change is not major. Unless there were other agreements or conditions, Kai would probably not be eligible for unemployment benefits if she quit only for this reason.

Personality Conflicts

Usually, personality conflicts that don’t involve unlawful discrimination will not be considered good cause to quit. Workers are expected to do their best to work together, but when an employee is subjected to intentional harassment, vulgar or abusive language, or threatened violence, working conditions may be so intolerable as to constitute “good cause” for resigning. It takes a lot, though, to prove that a working environment is hostile. Many situations that workers feel are hostile will not rise to the level of “good cause” for the purposes of obtaining unemployment benefits. To constitute “good cause,” the working conditions must be so objectively intolerable that no reasonable person would be expected to endure them.

Losing a “Prerequisite” of Employment/Losing a License Required for Your Work

If your job depended on you having a particular license and it was “reasonably foreseeable” that your actions (such as a truck driver driving while intoxicated) would lead to the loss/suspension of your license and job, the NJDOL will consider you to have “voluntarily quit” your job, even if you were fired. In this case, you will likely be disqualified from unemployment benefits. Similarly, if you let your license expire without taking any action to renew it, and you were fired for this, the NJDOL will label this a “voluntary quit,” and you will likely be disqualified from benefits. However, if you took reasonable steps to preserve your license but they are not successful (for example, if you did not pass a required exam to renew your license), you may still be entitled to benefits.

Job Abandonment

The NJDOL considers a person to have voluntarily left their job if they miss work for more than five days in a row without contacting the employer. If you are found to have abandoned your job, you will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless circumstances prevented you from contacting your employer. To access unemployment benefits, claimants are expected to show that they did everything “necessary and reasonable” to remain employed before resigning. However, not all situations in which a person missed five or more days of work will result in a disqualification. If you temporarily stopped working because of a health or medical problem that was not caused by your job, you will not be disqualified if you made “a reasonable effort” to preserve your job, but the employer fired you anyway. In fact, depending on the circumstances, the New Jersey Family Leave Act and federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may require your employer to have held your job for up to 12 weeks.

Trailing a Military Spouse or Civil Union Partner

If your spouse or civil union partner was in the Army or National Guard and was transferred to a new location outside of New Jersey, you will not be disqualified for voluntarily leaving a job, as long as the following two requirements are met: (1) you move with your spouse within nine months of the transfer, and (2) when you arrive at the new location, you are available for other suitable work.