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How to Quit a Job in a Hostile Work Environment

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If you are employed in what you feel is a hostile work environment, you may feel it is time to quit your job. However, simply walking out the door may not be an option if you hope to collect unemployment insurance or find another position in the same industry. There are several steps you must take before resigning from your position to ensure you can show proof that you have given your employer the chance to make a reasonable effort to stop the harassment.

Do your research to ensure the harassment you have suffered meets the legal definition of a hostile work environment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), "Petty slights, annoyances and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people." Review both state and federal laws to ensure your case meets the legal definition of harassment.

Document everything. Properly quitting your job due to a hostile work environment can, unfortunately, be a long and painful process. Document every instance of harassment, including the date and time of the incidents, as well as anyone who has witnessed the harassment. It is likely you will need this supporting documentation to back up your case with members of management and your state unemployment office. This information will be especially helpful in the event your case ends up going to court.

Meet with a supervisor or human resources representative within your company who is not a party to the harassment. If your goal is to collect unemployment insurance upon quitting your job, you must first work through the proper channels to give your employer adequate opportunity to rectify the situation. If the employer fails to take reasonable action to stop the harassment, you may be able to quit your job and still be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, if your employer makes a reasonable effort to stop the harassment, you must also make a reasonable effort to take advantage of any corrective actions your employer should take.

Resign from your position. If you have taken all of the necessary steps to prevent or correct the hostile work environment, and you are still being harassed (according to the legal definition of harassment), it is time to resign from your position. However, do not simply stop showing up at work, as this could have an adverse affect on your future career. Instead, meet with an HR representative and review any documents you may have signed upon employment in regards to resigning your position. Give your employer the standard notice period — usually two weeks, but this may vary according to industry and position — and submit your resignation in writing. Unless your employer chooses to dismiss you immediately upon resignation, follow all policies and procedures during your last weeks on the job and do everything in your power to be the model employee before you go.


Laws regarding hostile work environment and unemployment insurance vary from state to state. Consult with a legal professional who is licensed in your state of employment before making the decision to permanently leave your job.


Amanda L. Webster has a Master of Science in business management and a Master of Arts in English with a concentration in professional writing. She teaches a variety of business and communication courses within the Wisconsin Technical College System and works as a writer specializing in online business communications and social media marketing.

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