NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Q: Does it make sense to get myself fired to collect unemployment benefits, and if so, how should I go about it?
A: Given how many people feel overworked in their current jobs, there’s a good chance some wish they could ditch their current 9-to-5 and collect unemployment benefits for a few months while they figure out their next step. Unfortunately, trying to get yourself fired by slacking off or making a scene isn’t the answer.
In order to collect unemployment benefits, you need to have left your previous job for reasons largely beyond your control. For instance, if you were let go as part of a mass layoff because the company had to reduce its payroll or was going out of business, that would qualify you for unemployment. Likewise, if you quit because of a health issue, you should be eligible for benefits. However, if you deliberately provoke an employer into firing you, that qualifies as being fired with cause, and usually makes you ineligible to collect benefits.
“Most often, if you’re fired for cause, you can’t claim unemployment benefits, or it’s hard to,” says Charles Purdy, a career expert with Monster.com. There are exceptions to this rule, primarily because he says the idea of “with cause” can be "hard to define" in certain cases, but it’s difficult to predict whether you’ll be the lucky one to get benefits and how long it might take to convince your state’s labor department to allow it.
If you are eager to stop working no matter what and really want to collect unemployment, you can approach your boss and see if the company would be willing to report you as being laid off rather than having quit, but more often than not, the company will probably refuse.
“Companies would much rather you quit than lay you off,” Purdy says, noting that laying off more workers potentially costs the business more in insurance payments to the government. “But sometimes if you have a nice understanding boss and say, ‘I’d like to be laid off from this job,’ that might work.” Of course, if it doesn’t work, you’ll probably have to quit anyway since you’ve already shown your hand.
Even if, against all odds, you manage to get yourself fired or laid off and go on to collect benefits, that strategy could still end up hurting you in the long run.
“You are going to have to explain it to an employer down the road,” says Heather Huhman, a career counselor and founder of Come Recommended, a public relations firm for recruiters. “Right now, employers are discriminating against people who are unemployed. If there is already unemployment discrimination going on, I imagine it’s even worse if you’ve been fired.”