Some victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking need to leave their jobs because of the violence in their lives. Others are discharged from their jobs because of the violence. In most states, individuals are ineligible for unemployment benefits if they leave work voluntarily without “good cause” or if they are discharged for “misconduct.” Over 30 jurisdictions have passed laws that explicitly provide unemployment insurance to domestic violence victims in certain circumstances. The details of each law vary. In most cases the applicant must fulfill all other eligibility requirements for unemployment insurance and often the applicant must provide documentation or certification of the violence. Even if a state has not passed a law, a victim of domestic or sexual violence who leaves her job or is discharged may still be eligible for benefits under regulations, case law, or other provisions.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-5 (Division B, Title II, Sec. 2003), contains a provision that grants states extra funding if they extend eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits to workers who leave their jobs for “compelling family reasons,” including domestic violence. Several states have consequently amended their laws or introduced bills to do so. Check the website of your state’s legislature for more information.
For more information on unemployment insurance generally, see Legal Momentum’s guide “Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance Benefits".