Colorado Unemployment Law – resignation for harassment
There is a new decision from the Colorado Court of Appeals regarding
Colorado unemployment law.
It is important to any worker or employer dealing with on the job harassment.
The hearing officer found that claimant resigned because he believed that employer was not acting quickly enough in responding to his complaint of sexual harassment from a coworker. The hearing officer also found that employer was taking the complaint seriously and claimant did not allow employer reasonable time to conduct an investigation and determine the appropriate action. Therefore, the hearing officer concluded that claimant was at fault for the separation and that disqualification of unemployment benefits was warranted. The employee who quit had first complained, and the employer authorized him to take a paid leave of absence and excused him from attending meetings at which the coworker would be present until the supervisor completed his investigation of the matter. The employer took several days to investigate. The employee grew impatient and quit while the investigation was pending.
The employee claimed he was entitled to quit but get benefits because the unemployment statute allows quitting due to “personal harassment by the employer not related to the performance of the job.” The Court of Appeals ruled that claimant’s coworker was not an employer under the statute. Further, there was no evidence of personal harassment by employer. Because employer had indefinitely removed claimant from the adverse working conditions and claimant did not remain at the job long enough to learn whether the adverse conditions would be eliminated, claimant was not entitled to benefits.
The lesson is that an employee being harassed by a co-worker must give the employer a chance to fix the situation. If the harassing co-worker is also one’s supervisor, or a manager, this can amount to harassment by the employer which justifies quitting.