I had someone ask if they would be able to get unemployment insurance if they quit their job due to the symptoms of their IBS. This is somewhat tricky & having IBS far from guarantees that you will receive unemployment benefits if you quit or are fired.

When filing for unemployment, most government agencies that oversee giving out these funds are going to investigate why your last job ended & if you were at fault for the loss of the job. Quitting or being fired from a job is a red flag that will almost always cause your case to be reviewed. Usually quitting is the worst of the two options, as that means you voluntarily left the job rather than the choice being out of your control.

Let’s look at it from the perspective of someone reviewing your case. Is this person going to just take your word? They probably will not. When there is a medical condition preventing you from doing something, usually those in authority want someone else in authority to confirm it. In this case the person reviewing your case will want a doctor to confirm what you are saying. Given that IBS isn’t very well understood or treated effectively by many doctors, a lot them are not willing to admit that IBS could greatly impact a person’s ability to perform their job. Many doctors have “paperwork-phobia” as far documenting a person’s illness for use towards altering their work habits, unemployment or disability. You will more than likely get a response such as “eat more fiber and take these anti-diarrhea medications, you’ll be fine”. It’s worth it to keep trying though.

Here is how I would suggest you handle this situation. Document every trip you take to the doctor. Try to have your doctor confirm something about your condition, even a note that says “so and so has been seeing me for the last 3 months due to chronic diarrhea”. You basically want a paper trail showing you have an illness & are seeking treatment.

Next you need to notify your job of your health issues and request any changes that need to be made or any tasks you will be unable to perform. It would be best to send this via e-mail and print out a copy for yourself. Your employer may agree or not agree with your request, it doesn’t matter a whole lot either way. The main goal of the request is to notify them of your ailments and to create a paper trail of your efforts to retain your job.

If the main task of your job is so involved that you are not able to perform it at all, ask for a transfer to a different position(at a similar wage) that will allow you to continue to work, even if none are available at the time. Ultimately the goal here is to show that you exhausted all of your options to remain employed.

Keep note of any instances where they ask you to do things that you have already detailed you can no longer do. You can either try your best at it or refuse to do it. This may create confrontation but ultimately you have to do what’s best for you and so long as you gave them advanced warning on your situation, they should not be ones to complain. Make sure you document the dates each request was made, who told you to do what task, their position & why you’re not able to perform that task.

Either immediately or after some time has passed your employer might try to pressure you into quitting. Initially rebuff these requests and ask why it was suggested. If they respond back that your performance is dropping, apologize & explain you’re doing the best given your circumstances. Keep copies of all communications. Try to hold on for as long as possible. It is better that they fire you than for you to voluntarily quit. If the situation becomes extremely stressful & you’re at wits end then quit, so long as you have a paper trail showing your efforts to remain employed. Make it clear in your report to unemployment that you were pressured into quitting due to illness.

If you do not receive pressure to quit, but you are told to continue to perform duties you have explained you can no longer do, refuse to do them & remind your employer that you have notified them of your limitations. This will probably lead to you getting fired, which is not the end of the world & may actually help your case as you did not voluntarily make the decision to quit. If they do not fire you, but continually make requests for tasks you cannot perform, you may need to quit, remember though to note all requests to perform tasks you have notified them you cannot perform.

Following these steps will give you a healthy amount of documentation to build your case for obtaining unemployment. Keep in mind that you must show that you are actually still employable as well. So you also need to think of jobs that you are able to do otherwise you might be told to file for disability, which is no piece of cake & will not help your immediate situation.