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Jobless employees can get “sick” benefits

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Several provisions of the unemployment compensation laws allow jobless employees to obtain benefits because of illness of themselves or others. While rarely invoked, they can be utilized effectively for employees who are separated from work, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.

Quitters.  An employee who quits is generally ineligible for benefits unless the resignation is for a “good reason” caused by the employer. But a quitting employee may be entitled to unemployment compensation under Minn. Stat. §268.095 Subd. 1 (7) if they resignation was due to a “serious injury or illness” that necessitates leaving work or to provide “necessary care” to an ill, injured or disabled immediate family member. An employee must satisfy three conditions:

  • Inform the employer of the “medical problem;”
  • Request an “accommodation,” and
  • Is denied a “reasonable accommodation.”

An employee who is discharged for “misconduct” is ineligible for benefits. But the disqualifying provision does not apply under Minn. Stat. §268.095 Subd. 6 if an employee:

  • Misses work due to illness or injury;
  • Is absent in order to care for an ill, injured or disabled immediate family member; or
  • The employee’s behavior is the “consequence” of mental illness or impairment.

Satisfying these provisions requires that the employee give “proper notice” to the employer.  An employee also may be requested to provide appropriate medical documentation.

Chemical Dependency.  The provisions for quitting or terminated employees extend to chemical dependency such as substance abuse. But eligibility on grounds of chemical dependency is restricted.

  • The condition must be that of the employee, not an immediate family member; and
  • The employee must not have been previously diagnosed or treated for chemical dependency and “failed to make concerted efforts to control” the dependency.

Both employees and employers should be aware of these provisions when dealing with health-related issues in the workplace.