Q: A few years ago, I was asked to resign from my job. My boss said “We’re going to have to let you go, or you have the option to resign.” I chose resignation.
Later, when I applied for unemployment I gave “resignation” as the reason for leaving, but they denied benefits because I had supposedly resigned voluntarily. After explaining I was asked to resign, the unemployment office said that constituted a “forced resignation” which meant that I would be eligible for unemployment benefits after all.
I’ve always wondered, if they wanted to get rid of me why didn’t they just fire me? Why ask me to resign instead?
A: Usually when an employer offers you the option to resign in lieu of being fired they do so for a couple of reasons. One, because they think it will benefit you, since you will be able to say truthfully in the future when applying for other employment that you were not fired from that position. The second reason is they think it will benefit them if you resign because they assume you won’t be eligible to receive unemployment, and their account won’t be charged.
As you found out however, employers don't always realize that the unemployment office (whose gods are fickle) usually considers those resignations “forced” and - for unemployment benefit purposes- they equate them to a firing. So in the end the employer almost always ends up being charged the unemployment benefit.
Of course people are not asked to resign willy-nilly, usually there's something wrong with the employment relationship. It may mean that you weren’t doing a satisfactory job and they didn’t want to go through the (sometimes painful) progressive discipline process.
Or perhaps your job performance was fine, but you weren’t a good “cultural fit”.
The moral of the story for employers is that when -for whatever reason- an employee is offered the option to resign and they do, be prepared for a high probability they’ll be able to collect unemployment.
And the moral of the story for employees is, if you’re offered the option to resign you should probably take it. Unless you want to stay and fix whatever the problem might be and try to keep your job --or unless you think they are firing for illegal reasons, you’re probably better off resigning and moving on with a “never fired” record.
Disclaimer: this is an opinion column, not meant as legal advice