Unemployment compensation is reserved for employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. This is most often understood to mean those who are fired but did not engage in any misconduct. But it is not necessarily limited to that. People who quit for good reasons are often eligible as well, though what constitutes good reason may vary from state to state.
Reasonable fear for one’s safety will strike most people as a good reason. What is “reasonable” creates many arguments. In a Minnesota case, a prison nurse had been assaulted by an inmate and witnessed two other attacks on co-workers. When the prison failed to put new safety measures in place, she quit. The Court of Appeals ruled in her favor, over the prison’s objection that they had safety protocols in place and that prison work just was not for everyone. Since attacks were occurring with increasing frequency and safety policies were not changing, the nurse’s fears for her own safety were ruled to be reasonable.
The unemployment process is often thought of as an informal one that does not necessarily require an attorney. But that nurse won (and her employer lost) because a careful attorney developed a good record that could sustain a victory on appeal, and the arguments presented were carefully structured under the appropriate standards. Whether employer or employee, the stakes are not insignificant and legal help can be highly beneficial.