Arizona Supreme Court ruling expands unemployment insurance eligibility to more workers who quit (2024)

The Arizona Supreme Court decided on January 26, 2024, to expand the definition of intolerable work conditions, making it easier for certain people who quit their jobs to claim unemployment insurance benefits. The court argued in its Barriga v. ADES/Precision ruling thatexisting regulations defining intolerable working conditions related to poor relationships with coworkers did not “cover the entire universe of circumstances that could constitute an intolerable work situation.”

The Arizona Department of Economic Security argued in the case that existing regulations defined intolerable working conditions on the basis of poor relationships as involving 1) severely strained relationships that could risk a physical fight or (2) severe verbal abuse or profanity.

Although the court rejected those criteria as the only circumstances that would allow an employee to quit with good cause and claim unemployment insurance, the court held that defendant Pedro Barriga—who quit his job at Precision Auto Body LLC citing a dispute with a coworker and applied for unemployment benefits—was not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits based on the particular circumstances of the case.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

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