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DLLR's Unemployment Insurance Appeals

 

Voluntary Quit - Section 8-1001 - Maryland Unemployment Decisions Digest

 

Introduction

The provisions dealing with voluntarily quitting employment were previously located in Article 95A, Section 6(a) of the Annotated Code of Maryland. After the law was revised in 1991, these provisions were recodified as Section 8-1001 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Annotated Code.

Under Section 8-1001 of the Labor and Employment Article, a claimant may be disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits if he voluntarily quits his employment. By creating separate disqualifying provisions in this section, the legislature intended to make a clear distinction between those factual situations in which an employee is discharged and those in which he quits the job. Allen v. CORE Target City Youth Program, 275 Md. 69, 338 A.2d 237 (1975).

If a claimant voluntarily quits his job for reasons which constitute good cause, no penalty will be imposed against the claimant's receipt of unemployment insurance benefits.

If a claimant voluntarily quits his job without good cause, but for valid circumstances, a penalty consisting of a delay of payments for five to ten weeks will be imposed. The duration of the penalty is discretionary with the fact finder. Once the penalty period expires, the claimant may still be eligible for the full amount of unemployment insurance benefits available under the law.

If a claimant voluntarily quits his employment without good cause or valid circumstances, the claimant will be disqualified from receiving benefits until he becomes reemployed, earns at least 15 times his weekly benefit amount in covered employment, thereafter becomes unemployed through no fault of his own, and meets the other requirements of the law.

 

Voluntary Quit - Section 8-1001

I. What Is a Voluntary Quit?
Before a penalty can be imposed under Section 8-1001, it must be shown that the claimant voluntarily quit his job. It is important to resolve the issue of whether a claimant voluntarily quit or was discharged because the burden of proof is allocated differently depending on whether a quit or a discharge occurred.
The term "leaving work voluntarily" is not defined anywhere in Section 8-1001, and absent some imperative reason for enlarging its meaning, the term should be construed as having its ordinary and commonly accepted meaning. Allen v. CORE Target City Youth Program, 275 Md. 69, 338 A.2d 237 (1975).

The phrase "leaving work voluntarily" has a plain, definite, and sensible meaning, free of ambiguity. It expresses a clear legislative intent that to disqualify a claimant from benefits, the evidence must establish that the claimant, by his own choice, intentionally, of his own free will, terminated the employment. Allen, supra.

If an employee is discharged for any reason, other than perhaps for the commission of an act which the employee knowingly intended to result in his discharge, it cannot be said that his unemployment was due to "leaving work voluntarily." Allen, supra.

Every statement that an employee makes that he intends to resign is not a resignation. For example, an employee's general statement that he is going to resign several months in the future is generally not considered a resignation.

The intent to quit can be shown by actions as well as words. An express resignation is not necessary when the conduct of the claimant is tantamount to voluntary resignation. For example, an employee's failure to report to work for several consecutive days without notifying the employer may show an intent to voluntarily quit. A refusal to accept a transfer may also be considered a voluntary quit.

On February 8, 1996, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rejected the doctrine of constructive voluntary quit. Department of Economic and Employment Development et al v. Taylor, 108 Md. App. 250, 671 A.2d 523.

An employee who resigns in lieu of discharge does not show the requisite intent to quit. This situation is treated as a discharge if the employee had no alternative but to resign or be discharged. However, an employee who resigns rather than face charges that may lead to discharge is considered to have voluntarily quit.

Labor disputes are dealt with under a separate section of the statute (Section 8-1004) and the voluntary quit section (Section 8-1001) does not apply to these situations. Sinai Hospital v. Department of Employment and Training, 309 Md. 28, 522 A.2d 382 (1987). Employees who are on strike and who refuse to return to their jobs, when ordered to do so by their employer, have not voluntarily quit their jobs, even where the employer immediately replaces them.

An employee who is on the rolls of a temporary agency, but is not currently assigned, is not employed and thus cannot quit. A refusal of an assignment offered later is not a voluntary quit. The reasoning behind this ruling is to assure that those who take action to alleviate their unemployment by accepting a temporary assignment are not treated more harshly than those who do less.

 

A. Intent to Quit

 

1. In General
The claimant's refusal to renew her employment contract, accompanied by her statement of intent to resign her employment, are sufficient actions to show the claimant's intent to abandon her employment. Cole v. Boys' and Girls' Homes of Montgomery County, Inc., 595-BR-82.

The claimant submitted a letter to the employer stating that she had no alternative but to resign in the near future unless her job duties were changed. The claimant stated that she was willing to "discuss her feelings" with the employer. The employer responded that the complaints dealt with duties which were within the claimant's job description, and accepted her resignation, but the claimant was simultaneously offered an opportunity to speak with the employer. The claimant declined. The claimant's letter, together with her rejection of the opportunity to speak with the employer, was an effective resignation. The employer is under no duty to seek out an employee and solicit her feelings. Nelson v. Annapolis Housing Authority, 965-BR-85.

Where the claimant's decision to quit in the heat of anger is later confirmed, after the claimant has had an opportunity to reflect, the claimant has shown the requisite intent to voluntarily quit. Stefan v. Levenson and Klein, 1794-BR-82.

No intent to quit can be inferred by the claimant's innocent incarceration. Lansinger v. Baltimore County Fire Department, 1305-BR-82.

2. Intent Shown by Words
The claimant's statement that he intended to quit if things did not improve was not intended as a resignation. After talking, his concerns were resolved and he refused to quit. He was discharged, but there was no evidence of misconduct. Wolf v. Cargill, Inc., 891-BH-88.

The claimant stated that she intended to resign sometime in the next few months conditioned upon her getting her own business started. The employer seized upon this and set the claimant's last day of work as August 31, 1988, since (1) the employer was getting ready to cut out some positions, (2) the claimant had stated she intended to leave as soon as she got her business started, and (3) the claimant had missed many days of work, although she had a reasonable excuse for most of the absences. The claimant's statement was not a resignation and the discharge was not for misconduct. There was no penalty imposed. Wert v. Majestic Industries, 183-BR-89.

Although a resignation can be made verbally and it may be sufficient evidence to constitute a voluntary quit, every statement made by an employee that he intends to leave at some point in the future is not necessarily a resignation. The entire circumstances must be examined, and in this case, the evidence failed to support a conclusion that the claimant resigned her job. Ludwig v. Docktor Pet Center, 120-BR-85.

3. Intent Shown by Actions
An intention to quit one's job can be manifested by actions as well as words. The claimant's failure to take sufficient steps to renew the employment relationship, after having been out for a long period due to illness, constitutes job abandonment without good cause or valid circumstances. Lawson v. Security Fence Supply Company, 1101-BH-82.

The claimant was cleared of any charges against her and was asked to return to work, but she avoided the employer because she was wary of returning to work and was awaiting the advice of her counsel. The retention of an attorney does not insulate an employee from the normal requirements of the employer-employee relationship. The claimant's failure to respond over a long period of time to the employer's request to return to work was abandonment of her position, justifying the maximum disqualification. Sadiki v. Progress Unlimited, Inc., 574-BR-87.

The claimant notified the employer of her intent to resign by letter, and offered to work a reduced work week to train a replacement in lieu of giving two weeks' notice. This was unacceptable, and her resignation was accepted immediately. The claimant clearly intended to resign her full-time employment immediately, despite her offer of temporary part-time work until a replacement was trained. Smoot v. Abaris Realty, Inc., 971-BR-84.

The claimant's offer to accept a layoff does not evolve into a resignation without some additional expression of a desire and intent to resign. LaDana v. MEBA Training Program, 828-BR-88.

The claimant voluntarily quit his job when he walked off the job site and never returned. The claimant did not meet his burden of showing that his voluntary separation was for good cause or valid circumstances. Smith v. P and J Contracting Company, Inc., 734-BH-89.

The claimant left work sick and was out for one week. During this time, he failed to contact the employer regarding his health or his intentions. The claimant's actions amount to job abandonment. The claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Truesdale v. Luskins, Inc., 430-BR-90.

The claimant failed to report to work or call in for three consecutive days and was then suspended for five days. The claimant failed to return to work after the suspension. The claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Baker v. Broadway Services, Inc., 233-BR-90.

The claimant, who was disabled in October, 1990, and receiving workers' compensation, was unable to return to work until May 13, 1991. On May 13, 1991, the claimant called his foreman and was told that no work was available. Other employees had been laid off since December, 1990. The claimant did not voluntarily quit his employment. Weir v. Francis O. Day Company, Inc., 1300-BR-91.

Where a business is bought out by a new employer, the employees cannot be penalized for "voluntarily" quitting when they continue to perform the same jobs for the new employer. This same reasoning applies where a discrete part of a business is transferred to a new business entity. An employee who merely attempts to retain her same job should not be penalized because the change of the business entity requires her technically to resign from the previous employer. Smith v. Complete Communications Installations, Inc., 324-BR-93.

4. Resignation in Lieu of Discharge
A claimant who resigns in lieu of discharge does not show the requisite intent to quit under Allen v. CORE Target City Youth Program, 275 Md. 69, 338 A.2d 237 (1975). Therefore, a resignation in lieu of discharge shall be treated as a discharge under Section 8-1002 or 8-1003 of the law. Miller v. William T. Burnette and Company, Inc., 442-BR-82.

Where a claimant quit because he feared a discharge was imminent, but he had not been informed that he was discharged, the resignation is without good cause or valid circumstances. Roffe v. State of South Carolina Wateroe River Correction Institute, 576-BR-88.

5. Resignation in Lieu of Facing Charges
A resignation in order to avoid facing charges which may lead to discharge is a voluntary quit without good cause and without valid circumstances under Section 8-1001. Brewington v. Department of Social Services, 1500-BH-82.

An exception to the rule in the Brewington case might be found where an employer intentionally brought personnel charges against an employee in bad faith or for purposes of harassment. The burden would be on the claimant to show bad faith or harassment. However, the mere presence of a police officer and a statement that criminal charges would be filed against the claimant for theft is not sufficient to constitute harassment. Therefore, the claimant's resignation in lieu of facing charges constitutes a voluntary quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Smith v. Maryland Training School for Boys, 359-BR-84.

The claimant voluntarily quit because he thought he would be discharged. When an employee voluntarily quits in anticipation of discharge for his own misconduct, this is a voluntary quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Cofield v. Apex Grounds Management, Inc., 309-BR-91.

The claimant resigned as part of a plea bargain of criminal charges. This was a voluntary quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Bellamy v. Denton Police Department, 421-BR-87.

The employer confronted the claimant with a suspicion of theft when money was missing from the employer's account. The employer's action was reasonable. Rather than attempt to explain, the claimant quit the job. Since the claimant quit to avoid a confrontation with the employer over missing money, and since the employer's action was reasonable, the claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Pasko v. Salisbury Warehouse Partnership, 173-BR-87.

A rumor or suspicion among other employees that the claimant stole a co-employee's car is not good cause or valid circumstances, where there is no showing that management accused the claimant of the offense. Kenny v. RWT, Inc., 133-BR-93.

 

B. Refusal of Transfer or Demotion
A refusal to accept a transfer to another position with the same employer constitutes a voluntary quit and not a refusal to accept suitable work. Kramp v. Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, 1051-BR-82.

The claimant, who worked as a driver, had eight accidents in one year, two of which were not his fault. The employer offered to transfer the claimant to another position because the employer's insurer refused to insure the employer if the claimant remained as a driver. The new position was a demotion, since the claimant would have less responsibility and would receive $.50 to $.75 less per hour. The claimant did not accept this transfer. The claimant quit without good cause or valid circumstances. The employer's actions were reasonable in light of the claimant's driving record. Williams v. Suggs Transportation Services, 609-BR-90.

The claimant was transferred from a position as a salesman to a position as a carpenter. The claimant agreed to the transfer but then made himself unavailable to the employer. The transfer was reasonable under the circumstances. Abandoning a job rather than transferring is a voluntary quit, without good cause or valid circumstances. Levin v. Wycoff Marine, 228-BR-91.

The claimant quit after being demoted to a new position by the employer. A refusal to accept a new position constitutes a voluntary quit. A demotion is not unreasonable where the employee has demonstrated inability to perform in the higher position. The claimant's new assignment would have meant a reduction of responsibilities, but would have paid the same. The new assignment was reasonable given the problems the claimant experienced in performing his old assignment. The claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Benjamin v. Creaney and Smith Properties, Inc., 145-BR-91.

When the employer permanently closed the laundry establishment in which the claimant worked, the employer informed the claimant that she could apply for work at another similar establishment owned by the employer some distance away. This is not a refusal of a transfer. Rather, the claimant was laid off and then offered the opportunity to apply for another position. Therefore, a disqualification for a voluntary quit is not appropriate. Taylor v. A. Samuel Kurland t/a Speedway Launderette, 563-BH-84.

C. Leave of Absence
The term "leaving work" refers only to an actual severance of the employment relationship and does not encompass a temporary interruption in the performance of services caused by a leave of absence. Muller v. Board of Education, 144-BH-83.

Where no work is available for the claimant upon the expiration of an approved leave of absence, the claimant's separation is for a non-disqualifying reason. No penalty is warranted under Section 8-1001. Savage v. Church Hospital, 1067-BH-83.

Where the claimant's pay is reduced upon the expiration of a leave of absence in which the claimant's former position was not guaranteed, and where the claimant accepted the revised conditions of employment prior to resigning, the claimant's resignation was not for good cause, but was for valid circumstances. Carbone v. Baltimore Goodwill, Inc., 1144-BR-83.

The claimant took a maternity leave of absence and was still an employee. Generally, a claimant who takes a voluntary leave of absence has not voluntarily quit her employment pursuant to Section 8-1001. However, the claimant is generally not considered available for work within the meaning of Section 8-903 for the duration of the leave. No disqualification was imposed upon the claimant under Section 8-1001. Batty v. Baltimore School Teachers, 165-BR-89.

The claimant failed to return to work after having been out on a medical leave of absence. The claimant never contacted the employer to request an extension of the leave. The claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Drury (Armbrester) v. Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Inc., 313-BR-90.

The claimant refused to return to work after the expiration of her leave of absence because she believed that the positions offered by the employer were lower than her previous position. However, both positions offered were at the same rate of pay as the claimant's previous position, were at convenient locations, and entailed duties which the claimant was capable of doing. The claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Gasior v. Joseph A. Bank Manufacturing Company, 23-BR-90.

Where a claimant accepts a leave of absence for the purpose of relocating to another state, and where she has no intention of returning to her job or to Maryland, the claimant is considered to have voluntarily quit. The leave of absence in this case was a pure technicality, as the claimant intended to leave her job and never return, and she told her employer of her intention from the outset. Hurt, 673-BR-93.

The claimant received a leave of absence to care for her seriously ill father, but was still unable to return upon the expiration of the leave and could not give the employer a date for her expected return. The employer replaced the claimant. Although the claimant did not want to quit, she intended not to return to work for an undefinable period and this constitutes a voluntary quit for valid circumstances. Sortino v. Western Auto Supply Company, 896-BH-83.

D. Sale of Own Business
The claimant's voluntary sale of his own business which was motivated by non-necessitous and non-compelling personal reasons, and which caused his unemployment, constitutes a voluntary quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Swartz v. Packett's Pharmacy, Inc., 1142-BH-83.

The claimant sold his half of the business because it was suffering losses, business conditions were not as expected, and the claimant and his partner had business differences. There was an agreement on both sides that the partnership be dissolved. The claimant voluntarily quit for reasons that were not good cause, but were valid circumstances. Glassman v. Computers Communications Group, Inc., 99-BR-88.

E. Temporary Employment Agencies
The general rule is that a worker for a temporary agency becomes unemployed the moment he finishes his remunerative assignment. As an unemployed person, he cannot be considered to have quit. The reason behind this rule is to assure that those who take action to alleviate their unemployment by accepting a temporary assignment are not treated more harshly than those who do less. Steelman v. SES Temps, Inc., 2013-BR-93.

For purposes of the unemployment law, a person becomes unemployed when his remunerative assignment comes to an end. A person whose temporary assignment has come to an end is unemployed already and cannot quit. Only a documented, longstanding history of continual and virtually uninterrupted employment will lead the Board to conclude that a failure to recontact a temporary agency amounts to a voluntary quit. Laster v. Manpower, Inc., 220-BR-90.

The temporary agency employer has the burden of proving that the claimant's work tenure meets the requirements set out in Laster, supra, before a claimant's failure to recontact the employer can constitute a voluntary quit. Goodwin v. R and R Service, Inc., 1361-BR-92.

Once a person has begun work on an assignment from a temporary agency, leaving that assignment before it is completed is a voluntary quit. Flack v. Sparks Personnel Service, 354-BR-90.

The claimant voluntarily quit employment with a temporary agency because the employer would not pay her $7.00 per hour. The claimant had accepted the position knowing the rate of pay. When she objected to the employment, she was offered another job that same day at the same rate of pay and the same location. The claimant refused. The claimant voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Thomas v. Kennedy, 424-BH-91.

The claimant worked for a temporary agency at a full-time assignment for over one and one-half years. When that assignment came to an end, the claimant was offered part-time positions doing less responsible work at a 27% pay cut. The claimant, who was searching for full-time work, declined the assignments. Since the claimant was not employed at the time the offers were made, her refusal of the offers was not a voluntary quit. Blair v. Sparks Personnel Service, Inc., 672-BR-92.

The claimant was discharged from employment when her temporary assignment ended. This assignment was one year in length. Nothwithstanding the length of this single assignment the Board held that the employer failed to establish that the claimant's tenure of employment met the test as set forth in Laster v. Manpower, Inc., 220-BR-90. Since this case failed the Laster test, the claimant had no duty to recontact the employer for another assignment. In this case, the claimant completed her assignment and no intent to quit employment was found. Wheeler v. Just Temps Inc., 1101-BR-01 (2001).

F. Employees on Strike
The disqualifications under Section 8-1004 (for being unemployed due to a stoppage of work at the employer's premises due to a labor dispute) and Section 8-1001 (for voluntarily quitting employment) are mutually exclusive. The term "leaving work" in Section 8-1001 refers only to a severance of the employment relationship and does not include a temporary interruption in the performance of services. Therefore, Section 8-1001 does not apply where the claimants were on strike and refused to return to their jobs, even after the employer told them they would be replaced if they failed to do so. Bibbens et al. v. Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, 368-BH-85. NOTE: The Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed the Board's decision in this case. See, Sinai Hospital v. Department of Employment and Training, 309 Md. 28, 522 A.2d 382 (1987).

There was a labor dispute and the union was the claimants' only certified bargaining agent. On November 20, 1987, the company and the union entered into a new collective bargaining agreement and the labor dispute ended. Many employees did not like the agreement but they did not have the right to ratify the contract before it was entered into by the union and the employer. The claimants had until November 25, 1987 to return to work. Those that did not return by that date voluntarily quit without good cause or valid circumstances. Sampedro v. Curtis Bay Towing Company, 622-BH-88.

G. Effect of Offering or Revoking a Resignation
Section 8-1001 does not require that an employer accept a resignation in order for it to be a voluntary resignation. Stefan v. Levenson and Klein, 1794-BR-82.

When a claimant's resignation is tendered, the employer is under no obligation to disregard the resignation, even where the claimant seeks to revoke it during the notice period. Roberts v. Tracor, Jitco, 991-BR-83.

The claimant wrote a letter of resignation effective February 12, 1988. Following this, the employer repeatedly asked the claimant to continue her employment. The claimant then agreed to stay on indefinitely. The claimant continued to work through March 18, 1988, at which time the employer told the claimant that it was accepting her resignation. The claimant, at the employer's request, clearly engaged in a course of action that indicated that her resignation was rescinded. Therefore, her failure to physically retrieve her resignation letter cannot be used by the employer to change her layoff into a resignation. Chambers v. Buffalo Tank Corporation of Delaware, 743-BR-88.

The fact that the employer asked for and received one week's notice, as opposed to three days notice, does not negate the claimant's intention to voluntarily quit. Nor does the employer's act of allowing the claimant to continue working until a replacement was found void the resignation. An employer is not required to accept an employee's withdrawal of her voluntary quit because the employee later changes her mind. Bean-Armstrong v. Industrial Knife Company, 756-BR-92.

H. Discharge Prior to Effective Date of a Resignation
Where the claimant gave two weeks' notice and the employer accelerated the claimant's leaving to be effective immediately, the penalty under Section 8-1001 of the law does not commence until two weeks after his separation from employment. Stefan v. Levenson and Klein, 1794-BR-82.

After incurring a long history of unexcused absences and tardiness, the claimant submitted a resignation to be effective in two weeks. During the notice period, the claimant was away from his work station and became disruptive when he was reprimanded. The claimant was discharged prior to the effective date of the resignation. The termination was not merely an acceleration of the leaving, but was for a series of repeated violations of employment rules constituting gross misconduct under Section 8-1002. The penalty begins on the actual week of termination. Salisbury v. Levenson and Klein, 395-BH-84.

Where a claimant submits a resignation effective six weeks in the future, but is laid off for lack of work before the six weeks is over, the penalty for voluntarily quitting does not begin until the end of the six-week period. Fountain v. J.H. Neuman and Son, 833-BH-81.

I. "Buy-Out" Offers and Voluntary Layoffs
The employer decided that a definite number of employees were going to be laid off and their jobs eliminated. Rather than make an arbitrary decision on its own, the employer decided to give monetary inducements to encourage people to voluntarily accept a layoff. The claimants really didn't have a choice, since their jobs were eliminated. There were very few other jobs within the company to which they could transfer, particularly within the local area. The employer increased the inducement by arranging it so that the longer the employee stayed on and thought about the severance package, the less money he would receive. Each employee knew or was led to believe that eventually he would be laid off, with or without the severance package, which induced him to accept the layoff sooner, rather than later. This is not a voluntary quit. Bishop et al. v. Digital Equipment Corporation, 270-BH-91.

Where the employer has already decided to lay off two people immediately from that particular office, the two people are considered laid off whether they are chosen by the employer or whether they choose themselves. The layoff was caused by a lack of work, and the fact that the employer allowed the claimant to suggest that he be laid off does not change this fact. Casamento v. Merrill Lynch Pierce, 2-BR-92.

In order to reduce the number of its employees for economic reasons, the employer offered all employees a "buy-out." The employer anticipated that an adequate number of people would accept the package so that no one who wanted to work would be laid off. The claimant subjectively felt that his department was slowly being eliminated and that he would eventually lose his job if he did not take the "buy-out" package. This is not sufficient to change a situation from a voluntary quit to a layoff, nor was the decision made for good cause or valid circumstances. Gonder v. The Baltimore Sun Company, 1765-BR-92.

The claimant, an employee with over thirty years on the job, chose early retirement when he was at risk of losing continuing, affordable health benefits if he did not retire before March 15, 1997. He retired on February 14, 1996. The claimant's reason for quitting was the need to have continuing affordable health care. Thus, it was held that the claimant left work voluntarily but had valid circumstances for doing so. Voris, Jr. v. Avesta Sheffield East Inc., 02408-BR-97.

Voluntary Quit - Section 8-1001 continued