We are disappointed that today, the Washington Supreme Court ruled against a part-time worker who sought unemployment benefits after her job was converted to full-time. Linda Darkenwald was employed as a dental hygienist for 25 years, but had been working only two days each week during the last four years due to a work-related neck and back injury. In July 2010, her employer informed Ms. Darkenwald that she would need to begin working three days per week. Ms. Darkenwald could not work the additional hours due to her disability, so she was forced to leave her job.
The Northwest Justice Project, Legal Voice, and the Washington Employment Lawyers’ Association argued that Ms. Darkenwald was not disqualified from receiving benefits because she had refused an offer of unsuitable work. But the Court held that, despite the fact that an unemployed individual seeking benefits can reject full-time work, that an employee is not eligible for unemployment benefits if she leaves a job for the same reason. The Court applied a narrow interpretation of the law, limiting the reasons a worker can leave a job for "good cause."
We will continue to seek economic justice for workers whose availability to work is limited by health, family obligations, or other important considerations.