Washington's One-Size-Fits-All Unemployment Compensation Eligibility in Cases of Voluntary Separation
Washington State’s Employment Security Act allows individuals who voluntarily left their jobs to be eligible for unemployment benefits if they quit their position with “good cause.” In structuring this Act, the state’s legislature has confined the definition of good cause to a one-size-fits-all list consisting of eleven circumstances. Consequently, if a situation arises that forces an individual to quit their job, yet does not fall into one of those eleven outlined circumstances, the Employment Security Department will disqualify the individual from receiving unemployment benefits. In comparison with other states’ unemployment laws, Washington’s system is quite limited, allowing no discretion under even the most compelling of circumstances. Such a statutory structure does not allow the state to truly effectuate the Act’s purpose of both providing benefits to those “unemployed through no fault of their own” and “reducing involuntary unemployment and the suffering caused thereby to the minimum.”1 Therefore, Washington’s legislature must act to alleviate this harm and grant individuals the unemployment benefits they deserve. In developing a solution, this Comment compares the good cause unemployment laws of Oregon, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Through this analysis, this Comment proposes that Washington repeal its exclusive good cause list and adopt a standard that defines “good cause” as cause of such a necessitous and compelling nature that would force a reasonable and prudent person of normal sensitivity, exercising ordinary common sense, to leave their employment.