Know Your Rights: Collecting Unemployment Benefits When Having to Quit A Job Because Of A Medical Condition

Our New Jersey employment law office routinely receives inquiries from unemployed workers who are denied their claim for unemployment benefits after needing to leave their job as a result of a medical condition.  In some situations, the worker should be entitled to unemployment benefits, while in others, they should not receive them.  The answer to this inquiry is not always straight forward.

A worker must show that although they can no longer perform their current job because of the medical condition, they are able to medically work in another job position. In other words, they are not disabled.  Instead, they have a medical condition that prevents them from performing the essential functions of their current employment.

Under New Jersey Unemployment Law, a person will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits if he or she leaves work voluntarily and without good cause attributable to such work.  The burden is on the unemployed worker to prove he or she left their employment for good cause attributable to such work.  Good cause attributable to the work has been defined as cause sufficient to justify the employee’s voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed.

An unemployed worker can show good cause if they leave work because of a medical condition that is attributable to the work. The connection between the work and the medical condition will be established by proof that the condition was caused by the job.  It can also be proven when the medical condition does not have a work-related origin, but is aggravated by the working conditions or when the job would impair the continued recovery of the medical condition.  In these situations, the employee must also show that there were no other suitable jobs available that the individual could have performed within the limits of the medical condition.

An individual will also qualify for unemployment benefits if they are terminated for being absent from work because of a medical condition, so long they make a reasonable effort to preserve his or her employment. A reasonable effort can be shown by the employee notifying the employer of the medical condition, requesting a leave of absence or taking other reasonable steps to protect the employment.  When an individual leaves work for medical reasons, medical certification shall be required to support a finding of good cause attributable to the work.

In any of these situations, an employee must be able to show that he or she is not disabled. In other words, although they cannot perform the duties and responsibilities of the current job, they can still work in another capacity performing different duties and responsibilities.  In order to be eligible for unemployment benefits, an individual must certify and prove that he or she is willing, able and ready to work.  If an individual is unable to work because of a medical condition, then they should be applying for disability benefits and not unemployment benefits.

It is always important to be fully prepared to present all the facts and evidence in an unemployment appeal in which you are claiming good cause to voluntarily leaving work because of a medical condition. This includes having all evidence concerning the medical condition, notification of the medical condition to the employer and all efforts to preserve the employment.  It is also very critical that the individual obtain appropriate medical documentation from his or her treating doctor supporting their claim for leaving the job because of the medical condition.

Our New Jersey unemployment lawyers are happy to assist you in your claim for unemployment benefits. Please feel free to contact our offices if you would like to retain our New Jersey unemployment attorneys to represent you in your claim for unemployment benefits.