Washington Law Review


“Without Good Cause”: The Case for a Standard-Based Approach to Determining Worker Qualification for Unemployment Benefits

June 01, 2014 | 89 Wash. L. Rev. 559

Abstract:  Under Washington’s Employment Security Act, workers who voluntarily quit their jobs are qualified to receive unemployment benefits only if they establish “good cause” for leaving work. For forty years, the agency that administers the statute and the courts had substantial discretion to find good cause under the statute’s flexible, standard-based approach. However, beginning in 1977, the legislature began to restrict the scope of that discretion by moving toward a rule-based approach. This trend reached its apex in 2009, when the legislature stripped the agency and the courts of all discretion and limited good cause to eleven reasons enumerated in the statute. This Comment argues that Washington should restore administrative and judicial discretion and return to a standard-based approach to determining whether claimants have good cause for voluntarily leaving work. First, a standard is more theoretically sound than a rule because workers’ reasons for leaving work vary significantly and because the usual rationales for rules do not justify their use in the voluntary quit statute. Second, the rule disqualifies claimants who leave work for reasons consistent with the purpose of the Act. Finally, a standard is necessary to advance the purpose of the Act and of unemployment compensation generally.

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