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Former Employee Must take Affirmative Action to Terminate Employment to Deny Unemployment Compensation – Nwokwu v. Allied Barton Security Service

August 5, 2020

Mr. Nwokwu was employed by Allied Barton, a security services company. Initially, he was assigned to a particular location, but was removed from that work site by Allied Barton after a supervisor reported that he had been sleeping at his post.  There were multiple versions of what happened next, but it is undisputed that Mr. Nwokwu had a temporary two week position through Allied Barton between the removal from the first location and his termination.

Allied Barton contended that Mr. Nwokwu had an obligation to seek a new position with their company, and that failure to meet the obligation was a voluntarily termination of his employment.  Under D.C. employment benefits statute, which the court interprets in favor of awarding benefits, a claimant is presumed to have left his job involuntarily unless the employer proves otherwise. To carry this burden, the employer must present evidence that the former employee affirmatively acted to end the employment relationship, or at least affirmatively acted in such a way that his desire to end the relationship may be reasonably inferred. It is not enough for an employer to show that a claimant precipitated his termination by his failure to do work or make himself available to do work. Rather, it must be apparent that the claimant actually, voluntarily, quit. Because Allied Barton did not prove that Mr. Nwokwu voluntarily quit his job, the case was remanded to the administrative agency with directions to award the unemployment compensation benefits due to Mr. Nwokwu under the law.