Compliance Corner – Angry Temporary Worker “Voluntarily Quit” After Assignment Ended, UI Benefits Denied

According to a recent Iowa Court of Appeals ruling, a temporary worker who angrily hung up on a call with her staffing firm upon learning her work assignment ended, and failed to follow her staffing firm’s policy of contacting the firm for additional work for more than a month thereafter, was appropriately denied unemployment insurance benefits.

After the staffing firm advised the worker that the client was ending her assignment, she responded by “crying,” “basically yelling” at the staffing firm manager and hanging up on the manager. She did not contact the firm again for over a month and, in the meantime, filed a claim for UI benefits. Relying on the staffing firm’s personnel policy and Iowa law that disqualifies from benefits a person who voluntarily quits, the Iowa Department of Workforce Development and lower court denied UI benefits.

The worker appealed, arguing she could not have voluntarily quit because the employment relationship with the staffing firm ceased when the firm did not offer an alternate assignment. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the worker’s agreement with the staffing firm required her to maintain contact with the firm if she desired new assignments, and that her decision to hang up on her employer and cease contact for multiple weeks meant the staffing firm had no reason to believe she was seeking an additional assignment—and demonstrated an intent to end her employment relationship with the firm. Thus, the Court of Appeal found that the worker was appropriately denied benefits.

More than half the states have a “callback rule” that provides that a temporary employee must contact the temporary help firm for reassignment upon completion of an assignment or be deemed to have voluntarily quit. The rule is designed to ensure that temporary employees who voluntarily quit do not unlawfully collect unemployment insurance benefits. This requirement is consistent with the employee’s fundamental obligation under unemployment law to seek work as a condition of benefits eligibility.

Credit American Staffing Association, one of USA’s Valued Partners.

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