If I Am Forced to Relocate for My Spouse's Job, Am I Eligible for Unemployment Benefits?

You may not be aware that North Carolina is one of several states whose unemployment law contains a provision for a “trailing spouse,” which means that if you are forced to leave your job due to your spouse’s career relocation, you are eligible for unemployment benefits. There is a two week waiting period, but this can be waived if your spouse is in the military.

This provision is designed to protect families from forced separation, but because every state does not recognize it, it is not always well known or understood. Many states that do have a trailing spouse provision only extend it to military spouses. Part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act attempts to modernize unemployment laws by offering incentives for states to adopt reforms that will extend benefits to more people. According to the National Employment Law Project, one of the qualifications for receiving funding involves extending benefits to individuals who leave work for compelling family reasons, such as a spouse’s relocation for employment reasons. As of June, 2009, 9 additional states had extended eligibility to trailing spouses, bringing the total to 22.

If you lived and worked in North Carolina, but were forced to move to another state that does not provide trailing spouse benefits, you should still file a claim in North Carolina. If your claim is initially denied because your employer reported that you left voluntarily, you should request an appeal hearing, which will give you the chance to explain your situation. A North Carolina employment attorney can help make sure you are awarded the benefits allowed by the state.