[This is a long post, for those who want to cut to the chase: The House Committee on Commerce and Labor is
currently scheduled to hold a public hearing on this Bill (SSB 5963) this Wednesday, March
18 at 1:30 p.m. Check to see if your representative is on this committee here]
Washington’s House of Representatives is set to review a bill that will overturn an important recent Washington Supreme Court case that made it clear the Commissioner of the Employment Security Department still has the discretion to determine whether or not an individual voluntarily left their employment for good cause and should receive benefits, even if they left for a reason not specifically listed in the statute regarding “good cause”. RCW 50.20.050.
A bit of background - As part of an attempt to woo Boeing to
keep its headquarters in Washington
Before 2003 an employee could be found to be eligible for unemployment compensation where he or she met the four criteria listed in the statute OR where the Commissioner of the Employment Security Department determined that work connected factors had caused a hardship or an unforeseeable deterioration in working conductions sufficient to justify an employee’s decision to quit. These determinations were not made lightly – an individual still had to show that they had made all reasonable endeavors to keep their employment, they had to show that a reasonable person would have been compelled to leave their employment, and they had to demonstrate a work related link. Someone who quit because they just didn’t like their job, or were dissatisfied with a performance evaluation, or didn’t get along with their boss would not qualify.
The “new” list has many good situations where it is clear an employee left their employment through no fault of their own: 1) where an individual left for a bona fide work offer that fell through; 2) if the separation was necessary because of the illness or disability of the employee or their immediate family member (with a host of restrictions); 3) the employee had to relocate due to a military spouse’s mandatory transfer (with restrictions); 4) if the separation was necessary to protect the employee or their immediate family from domestic violence or stalking; 5) if the employee’s compensation was reduced by 25% or more; 6) the individual’s hours were reduced by 25% or more; 7) if the individual’s worksite changed and the change caused a material increase in the distance or difficulty of travel and if the change caused a commute that was greater than “customary” in that line of work; 8) if the worksite safety deteriorated, but only if the individual reported it to the employer and the employer failed to correct; 9) if the individual left due to “illegal activities” in the workplace, but only if the individual reported it to the employer and the employer failed to correct; 10) if the individual’s usual work was changed to work that violates the individual’s religious convictions or sincere moral beliefs; or 11) if the individual left to enter a state approved apprenticeship program.
After the 2003 changes there was a great deal of controversy
whether or not the newly listed items regarding “good cause” to quit were
exclusive or whether the Commissioner still had some discretion. Our Supreme Court, in Spain
I find SSB 5963 to be an attempt to sneak this drastic
change past employees and advocates – it is primarily described as a bill to
This language means that a whole host of deserving individuals who should be eligible will be denied benefits in this down economy.