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Ark.: Lack of Childcare Good Cause for Resignation, Unemployment Benefits

By Kirk Rafdal  5/28/2014
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An employee who was awarded custody of her five grandchildren was justified in quitting her job and eligible for unemployment insurance, an Arkansas appeals court ruled.

Kathy Thompson had worked for six years as a senior executive for a regional Boy Scout organization when, in January of 2013, a court awarded her emergency custody of her five grandchildren, ranging in age from five to 14. Initially, Thompson’s ex-husband assisted with caring for the children, and she was able to continue her normal work schedule. However, Thompson’s ex-husband was forced to relocate to Florida in July of 2013, and she was left without childcare or the money to pay for it. As a result, Thompson tendered her resignation in late July and terminated her employment on Aug. 31.

When she filed for unemployment benefits, the Arkansas Board of Review agreed that the original custody order theoretically constituted a personal emergency and good cause, but that the emergency had abated by the time Thompson resigned, and a simple lack of childcare did not justify an award of benefits. Thompson appealed in state court.

On review, the Arkansas appeals court noted that a claimant has the burden of proving good cause by a preponderance of the evidence. “Good cause,” the court said, depends on “a consideration of all the facts and circumstances in each case.” More specifically, good cause is defined under state law as “a cause which would reasonably impel the average able-bodied, qualified worker to give up his or her employment.”

Based on the facts, and the inability of Thompson’s ex-husband to continue providing childcare and her inability to pay for it, the appeals court found that Thompson’s personal emergency was ongoing and more severe at the time she tendered her resignation. “There is no reason to conclude, based on the record presented, that the emergency disappeared in the next few months, during which time the employer benefited from Thompson's temporary arrangements for childcare that allowed her to continue working,” the court said.

The court reversed the board’s decision and remanded the case with instructions to grant Thompson’s unemployment insurance claim.

Thompson v. Director, Dept. of Workforce Services, Ark. Ct. App., No. E–13–1179 (May 14, 2014).

Kirk Rafdal, J.D., is a staff writer for SHRM.

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