Last week, the El Paso Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment in favor of an employer on an unemployment benefit eligibility issue where the employee, abandoned his job.  The employee was a Nationwide Financed Agent from January 2003 until November 2005.  A Financed Agent is an employee-agent of Nationwide who starts an insurance agency and operates it to the point of economic self-sustainability.  At that point the Financed Agent becomes an independent contractor. 

In June 2005, the employee’s supervisor met with the employee to discuss his poor job performance.  The employee continued to under perform and the employer attempted to meet with the employee on three successive occasions to address the continued poor performance; however, the employee failed to attend those meetings.  Ultimately, the supervisor telephoned the employee and left a message for him to return the call immediately.  The call went unreturned.  Further investigation revealed that the employee had not been to the office in two months and that he had removed computer equipment and all of his personal belongings from the office.  The supervisor wrote the employee to advise that Nationwide considered his employment to have been abandoned. 

The employee filed for unemployment benefits claiming he quit with good cause.  He contended that he quit with good cause because: 1) he was require to work overtime without being paid time -and-a half; 2) he believed he was about to be laid off; and 3) supervisor acted in bad faith to create a record for his eventual discharge.  The appellate court affirmed the judgment for the employer because:

Uranga had been employed by Nationwide from January of 2003 to November 2005. As an agent, Uranga would have a full day but he was able to set his own office hours. Uranga was aware at the time he was hired of the job responsibilities and the required time commitment. When Uranga’s job performance became a problem, Scott met with him to discuss the deficiencies in his operation. Uranga’s job performance did not improve and Scott attempted to meet with him again, but Uranga did not attend the scheduled meetings. Scott subsequently discovered that Uranga had been absent from the office for most of the two previous months and he had removed computer equipment and personal belongings. Scott determined Uranga had abandoned his employment and wrote Uranga a letter notifying him that Nationwide considered his employment at an end.

Given these facts, there is nothing surprising or controversial about about the fact the appellate court affirmed the conclusion that the claimant resigned without good cause.  Similarly, the opinion doesn’t state any new rules of law.  However, the opinion emphasizes a few points about eligibility for unemployment benefits under Texas law including:

  • Leaving a job when work is still available (even when a definite notice of layoff is given) constitutes a voluntary resignation.
  • Claimant working under objectionable conditions for a prolonged period of time weighs against a finding that his eventual resignation was for good cause.

A copy of the court’s opinion is available here.