Nielsen v. Employment Dept.

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 05-29-2014
  • Case #: A150925
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Tookey, J. for the Court; Sercombe, P.J.; and Hadlock, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under ORS 657.176(2)(c) (see also OAR 471-030-0038(4)), a former employee seeking unemployment benefits who resigns her position rather than confront her employer or file a BOLI complaint can still qualify for those benefits, as long as it was reasonable for her to do so.

Former Employee filed for unemployment benefits after quitting her job on grounds that over the course of a year she was required to put in long hours without any overtime payment. The Employment Department denied her claim, to which she appealed to the administrative law judge (ALJ) who also denied her claim. The Board used the ALJ's reasoning to deny her coverage, namely, that Employee failed to establish good cause for quitting; particularly, that she did not attempt to file a complaint with BOLI while she was employed, nor was there any record she confronted her employer. The Court, on appeal, held that the hostile work environment created by the employer offered her no viable option other than to quit. To file a BOLI complaint would be timely and potentially create a hostile work environment, and Employee, on at least two occasions, saw the retaliatory effects of other employee's confrontation. To measure whether or not an employee had good cause, a reasonable and prudent person standard is employed. The Court further emphasized that an employee need not necessarily look into every other alternative other than quitting, but that she do what a reasonable person of normal sensitivity would do under similar circumstances. Reversed and remanded.

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