MN court: Workers who quit over child care can get unemployment

Jamie Gonzalez Diaz of Goodhue County, Minn., faced the dilemma too many women face: she had to choose between her job and the kids.

Her employer, Three Rivers Community Action, tried to accommodate her needs balancing the four kids by adjusting her work schedule and allowing her to take paid time off when there were gaps in the day.

But when she lost her child care provider, her employer told her she would no longer be accommodated with a different shift schedule than other employees, and that she needed to start working a regularly scheduled shift.

She asked what would happen if she couldn’t. She was told she would be fired.

She showed up for work at 8 a.m. the next day, but when she she learned she didn’t have child care options for the following day, she cleaned out her belongings, figuring her job was over. Her employer “accepted her resignation.” This all happened not long after she was named a Head Start Hero in Minnesota.

Normally in Minnesota, if you quit work, you’re not eligible for unemployment. There’s an exception, however: the loss of child care.

But Three Rivers appealed an initial decision from the state that said she could get unemployment, and a law judge said the loss-of-child-care exception did not apply because Gonzalez Diaz could have asked for an additional accommodation for the days she could not acquire child care.

Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said that’s wrong.

“Gonzalez Diaz requested accommodation, [but] no reasonable accommodation was available to her,” Judge Lucinda Jesson wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.

While we do not disagree with any of the ULJ’s [unemployment law judge] factual findings and agree that Gonzalez Diaz could have requested additional time off, we disagree that she was required to in order for the exception to apply. Gonzalez Diaz had already requested and received accommodations multiple times, and Three Rivers was well aware of Gonzalez Diaz’s ongoing child-care issues. Furthermore, Gonzalez Diaz’s failure to renew her request for an accommodation was understandable as

Three Rivers rescinded the implemented accommodation and met with Gonzalez Diaz to inform her she needed to work her scheduled shifts as a result of her requesting paid time off.

The ULJ also emphasized that Gonzalez Diaz’s child-care issue would be less of a problem during the summer, starting only a short time after she quit. However, whether the lack of childcare would have continued to be an issue is outside the scope of the analysis. The statute only requires that Gonzalez Diaz lost childcare and it caused her to quit. It does not mention anything regarding whether the issue would be ongoing or isolated.

The Court of Appeals made clear that its decision doesn’t require employers to accommodate employees who are having child care issues, it only allows those who quit to get unemployment benefits (See ruling).

  • Al

    Wow. You guys, this is… WOW.

  • Guest

    Seems reasonable to me.

  • The Resistance

    Patty Murray’s Childcare for Working Families Act would have addressed a lot of working parents’ childcare concerns. It’ll likely never see the light of day though. Sadly, barely a majority of democratic senators publicly backed it which is one of my beefs with my party.

    That’s why we need more former pre-school teachers in congress, and fewer attorneys.

  • Jay T. Berken

    The issue with becoming a parent, especially with both working, is not as much the cost of college, which college is less if you live in the metro area in all, and one can get loans to differ having to front the money each week, but it is daycare. No one tells you to make sure you have searched out daycare a year before hand and to save up a nest egg to offset the weekly amount due.

    • asiljoy

      and that your weekly rate covers 8:30 – 3:30. If you want care to cover the time you’re actually at work, that’ll be another X dollars please.

      • Jay T. Berken

        We now have one starting Kindergarten, which that is a whole new level being the school day only goes from x to y which is about 7-8 hours and you need 8-10 hour care for work day and commute.

        Yes, we again are fortunate that we in a school that has before and after school, AND we were admitted. Other schools have offsite before and after school which your child is bused to. If you do not get into the before and after school, one then has to look for it and figure out transportation.

        Our society does not and will not see this problem. It argues that we should be working long hours to get ahead, but you should be with your children and not have them babysat through daycare and swimming class.

    • Al

      Want a day care center that actually treats their staff like human beings with paid sick and vacation? More than a year on THAT waiting list.

      • Jay T. Berken

        We were very fortunate that we found a Spanish immersion home daycare, ran like a center with a curriculum, where the provider had a masters in Child Development. She had opened her daycare the year before and had an opening for an infant. She did run a center in her home country, but only being open for a year, it was a gamble compared to other places being opened for decades but less quality. We were very fortunate.

        What people shooting from the peanut gallery like to say, ‘why don’t you go to a cheaper daycare?’ Well you can find cheaper, but you are paying for what you get. They don’t understand that you are dropping off your child for at least nine hours (work day plus commute) to a person you have to communicate with once or twice a day depending on pickup. You want the assurance that your child is being stimulated, even at an infant, and not sitting in front of a screen.

    • joetron2030

      When it came time for my wife and I to choose, it was an easy decision. The pay she was getting at the time would have barely covered childcare. We decided it wasn’t worth the trade-off. So, she stopped working when our first child arrived.

      In the end, it turned out to be the best decision we could have made. Both of our kids have required more care than a child care provider could have offered and it’s continued on through their school years (1 in HS and 1 in middle school). I can’t imagine what kind of mess our family would have been in if we’d had to deal with all of that while both of us were working full-time jobs.

      I’m also thankful that I have a job that allows us to mostly get by on a single income in this day and age.

      • Jay T. Berken

        You are very fortunate. My wife makes more money, and I have the better benefits (e.g healthcare).

        • joetron2030

          I definitely recognize that!