Able and Available AA 150

Travel: Time, Distance, and Cost

This section sets forth principles applicable to eligibility determinations involving availability while in transit or moving and within travel, transportation, and geographical labor market restrictions.

A. General

Availability for work usually means that a claimant need not be available for work in any particular place. However, he or she must be available for work at some place in which there are reasonable opportunities for work.

The standard of "distance to work" which is included in the definition of suitable work in Section 1258 of the Code, indicates that the claimant is not required to be available for work at unreasonable distances. However, if there are no potential work opportunities which the claimant can reach from his or her home, and the claimant is not willing to commute or move to a location where employment opportunities exist, he or she would be unavailable for work.

Since there is no set formula to determine how far a claimant must travel to work or to what extent the costs of travel are or are not unreasonable, eligibility will be determined using the general availability requirements discussed in AA 5 and the Sanchez criteria: does the claimant have good cause for his or her restriction and does the claimant remain available to a substantial field of employment?

In general, availability issues due to transportation and travel arise in three areas.

  • Claimant restricts availability for suitable work because of the distance, time, or cost involved in using available modes of transportation, or due to a lack of adequate transportation.
  • Claimant is traveling in search of work.
  • Claimant moves to new location.

B. Transportation and Travel

1. Travel Time, Distance, and Cost

The distance and time a claimant would be required to travel would be greatly influenced by the method of transportation the claimant has available. If a claimant must rely on public transportation, it is clear that his area of availability would be more restricted than if private transportation were used.

In some occupations such as salesclerk, service station attendant, or waitress, the distance and time required to reach an adequate labor market might be short because these jobs exist in most areas. On the other hand, occupations such as mechanical engineer, data entry operator, or aircraft assembler might require a much greater commute since those occupations are not readily available in every community.

If a claimant restricts availability due to the time, distance, or cost involved in traveling to the normal labor market areas for his or her occupation, determine the reason for the restriction and whether that reason constitutes "good cause" as defined in AA 5.

After determining the claimant has good cause for his or her restriction, the department must then determine if a substantial field of employment remains that would use the claimant’s services. If, even with the claimant’s restrictions, a substantial field of prospective employers remains, the claimant would be found eligible under Section 1253(c). However, if good cause is not established for the restriction, and the restriction materially reduces the claimant’s labor market, the claimant would be ineligible.

Example 1, Commute Time:

The claimant is a financial planner who resides in Agoura. Her labor market includes southern Ventura County, the San Fernando Valley, and the financial district in Los Angeles. The one-hour commute to Los Angeles is customary for financial planners residing in Agoura, but she is unwilling to make this commute because she feels it is excessive. She accepted a job in Los Angeles once before and found she didn’t have as much energy in the evenings after the time-consuming commute. Since the claimant does not have good cause for the restriction, and since the restriction materially reduces her availability for work, the claimant is not eligible under Section 1253(c).

Example 2, Commute Distance:

The claimant is an accountant in Tehachapi. Because the labor market for accountants in Tehachapi is almost nonexistent, the normal commuting pattern for this occupation includes the cities of Lancaster and Bakersfield, each approximately 50 miles away. The claimant is willing to work in Lancaster because during the week he could stay with his parents who live in Lancaster, but he will not commute to Bakersfield because he considers the commute distance to be excessive. Since the claimant does not have good cause for his restriction, and since the restriction materially reduces his availability for work, the claimant is not eligible under Section 1253(c).

Example 3, Travel Cost:

The claimant is a buyer who resides in Oakland. Buyers in the greater Bay Area are required to be available throughout the area, including San Francisco. The claimant is willing to work in Oakland, but not San Francisco or the South Bay because the commute would require daily expenditure of either bridge tolls and parking or transit fare. Since these expenses are normal for individuals in the claimant’s occupation and labor market area, she does not have good cause for the restriction and, since the restriction materially reduces the claimant’s availability for work, she would be ineligible under Section 1253(c).

It should be noted that the Board has consistently held one hour’s travel time in metropolitan areas, or 30 miles in rural areas, is not an excessive commute time or distance. However, the distance or time a claimant must be willing to travel cannot be arbitrarily set, these factors would be greatly influenced by the mode of transportation the claimant has available.

2. Modes of Transportation

Claimants should be willing to use the modes of transportation normally utilized by other workers in their occupation. If a claimant restricts to a particular type of transportation, determine if the restriction is with good cause. If good cause is found, the claimant would be eligible if he or she remains available to a substantial field of employment. If good cause is not shown, the claimant would be ineligible if the restriction materially reduces the individual’s availability for work.

Example 1 - Relies on Public Transportation:

The claimant, a baker, has no personal vehicle and relies on public transportation. Baker jobs in her locality exist from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. The area’s public transit system operates buses from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The buses do not go to the industrial areas where the large commercial bakeries are located, but they do go to the areas where retail bakeries are located. The claimant is available to work during the hours the retail bakeries work. Since the claimant has good cause for her restriction and is available to more than a minimal number of retail bakeries, she would be considered available for work even though she has eliminated the commercial bakeries as prospective employers.

Example 2 - Relies on Public Transportation:

The claimant, a forklift operator, just had his car repossessed. He lives in a rural community, fifteen miles from the nearest town. He must rely on public transportation until he can obtain other transportation, but the transit system does not serve his community. There are no work opportunities for forklift operators in the claimant’s community and he is not willing to seek any other type of work. The claimant hitches a ride to town periodically to look for work. He says if he found a job, he would ask the employer to arrange a ride to work for him until he earned enough money to buy another vehicle. Although the claimant’s transportation restriction is with good cause, there is virtually no labor market for his services. Since the claimant is not available to a substantial field of employment, he is ineligible under Section 1253(c).

When a claimant resides in a small rural community with little or no employment opportunities and is unwilling or unable to commute to nearby larger communities, a definite availability issue is raised. The larger communities normally offer a greater labor market; therefore, the exclusion of these labor markets may result in a finding of unavailability.

C. Traveling in Search of Work

The fact that a claimant was traveling from one community to another does not, in and of itself, render the individual unavailable for work during the period of travel. However, the claimant must demonstrate that the trip was primarily a search for work.

In P-B-175, the Board considered the case of a claimant who was in transit from Spokane, Washington, to San Francisco during a portion of his normal workweek. The claimant had contacted a former employer and was told that if he came to San Francisco an effort would be made to place him. There was no promise of a definite job. In holding the claimant eligible, the Board stated:

"In the instant case, the claimant, in accordance with a preconceived plan, following advice from his former employer that an effort would be made to place him, removed himself from the labor market in Spokane in order to expose himself to possible opportunities of employment in the labor market of San Francisco. It is true that, on Monday, the claimant had not yet arrived in the latter city, but this was only one of the factors to be considered. Other factors to be considered are the lack of employment prospects in the foreseeable future in Spokane, the reasonableness of the claimant’s decision to move to San Francisco, the fact that the sole reason for the move was the belief that it would enhance the claimant’s possibilities of employment, and the fact that the claimant could not reach San Francisco without spending a day or so in travel. In our opinion, these other factors outweigh the circumstance that during Monday, the claimant was not physically present in the geographical area where he intended to offer his services. . . "

Some of the pertinent factors to be considered when determining the availability of the claimant in transit are:

  • What was the primary purpose of the travel? Was it to engage in a bona fide search for work rather than a trip undertaken for personal reasons?
  • What is the claimant’s usual occupation? Is work in that occupation normally obtained by travel? Had the claimant previously obtained work by traveling?
  • Did the claimant investigate the possibilities of jobs in the new location prior to making the trip? Why did the claimant choose that particular location at that particular time? (If the claimant made no effort to determine whether jobs existed in the new area, prior to leaving his primary labor market, the primary reason for the trip should be closely examined.)
  • Was work available in the claimant’s primary labor market area? How long was the claimant unemployed in his primary labor market before deciding to look for work elsewhere?
  • Would the claimant have been able to accept work if offered?

The same criteria would follow whether the travel was within the state or was to another state or states.

D. Relocation

1. During the Move

For issues related to the period of time involved in a claimant’s relocation from one area to another, it is necessary to examine the reason for the move in order to establish whether good cause exists for the period of unavailability.

If good cause is established for the move, determine whether the claimant remained available to a substantial field of employment on the remaining workdays of the week. If so, the claimant would be eligible under Section 1253(c). Examples of good cause for a move to another locality include:

  • Relocation to marry or accompany one’s spouse who resides in another community or who is moving to the new locality.
  • Moving to be near an ailing relative who needs care and there is no alternative means of providing the care.
  • Relocation to a new area when required by the health of the claimant or a member of the family.

If good cause is not established for the move, determine whether a substantial field of employment remained open to the claimant. If it is found the claimant’s availability was materially reduced by the period he or she was in transit, the claimant would be ineligible under Section 1253(c).

In those cases where the claimant will be moving on some indefinite date in the near future, availability will be based on the claimant’s willingness and chances of securing temporary employment, and what affect the amount of time the claimant is spending in preparation for the move has on efforts to seek work. In other words, if the move is not imminent, temporary job possibilities exist, and the preparations for moving do not prevent the claimant from seeking and accepting temporary employment, the claimant could be found available.

If the move was to accept a definite offer of work, or took less than four-hours of one day of the workweek, or the move took place on a day that is not a normal workday for the claimant’s occupation, there would be no availability issue.

2. New Labor Market Conditions

Moving from one locality to another does not in itself raise an availability issue. However, if the claimant moves from an area of substantial demand for his or her services to an area of limited or negligible demand, an examination of the claimant’s attachment to the labor market may be required.

A claimant who moves from one labor market area to another must be willing to adjust his or her job demands to the working standards in the new community. This includes wages, hours, working conditions, union considerations, transportation, commute patterns, etc. There nearly always is some variation in one or more of these factors from those in the community which the claimant left.

The Appeals Board has consistently found claimants eligible when they have moved from a large labor market area to a smaller area when (1) the reason for the claimant’s move was compelling and (2) the claimant remained available to a substantial field of employment.

P-B-177 is an example where the claimant moved to a small community and was considered available because she was willing to adjust her job requirements to the conditions of the new labor market. In this case the claimant, an experienced aircraft worker, relocated to Bend, Oregon, where her husband had obtained employment. The claimant was willing to accept any type of work that she could perform and at the prevailing rate in the new community. She registered for work as a salesclerk and sought work in sales and as a motel cleaner; both jobs existed in the new locality. The claimant had good cause to relocate to Bend and remained available to a substantial field of employment, even though aircraft assembly, her primary occupation, did not exist in the area. The Board held the claimant was available for work.

Again, in P-B-179, the Board considered the availability of a claimant who had moved to a small community. In this case, the claimant had worked as a salesclerk in Sacramento, before moving to Susanville due to her husband’s health. Since much of the claimant’s life had been spent in the Susanville area, she had previously worked there as a salesclerk and had operated a grocery store there for several years. Following her return to Susanville the claimant had applied at several retail stores and was promised employment by one upon completion of a move to new quarters. The Board stated:

"When the move to a smaller community leaves the claimant in a labor market where there is a reasonable potential demand for his services, such move cannot be said to have taken the claimant out of the labor market. . . The claimant’s move was to an area where there were many retail establishments. Her experience and qualifications plus the fact that she had work in the area for many years . . . indicate clearly that she remained in the labor market . . . ."

In P-B-199 the claimant moved from California to Honolulu, Hawaii, to marry and reside with her spouse. She sought work in her customary occupation as a telephone operator. By law, the public utilities in Honolulu could hire persons with less than three years’ residence on a relief basis only, and some employers preferred to hire only "islanders." The Board concluded that the employers’ reluctance to hire "newcomers" did not affect the claimant’s availability since work within her qualifications was being performed in the area in which she offered her services.

These examples illustrate that size and character of the community is not controlling, but rather the specific facts in relation to the potential labor market for the claimant. The test of potential labor market cannot be predicated solely upon the lack of openings in a particular locality; it must also include an exploration of the claimant’s adaptability and flexibility with respect to working conditions in the new area. If the claimant is ready, willing, and able to accept suitable employment, or has good cause for any restriction, and a substantial field of employment is available to the claimant, he or she would be considered available for work.

3. Temporary Relocation

When a claimant relocates to a new area on a temporary basis, a critical factor in determining eligibility is the reason for the move. If the reason for moving is other than to seek work, an availability issue may exist.

Example 1 - Claimant Ineligible:

A school teacher went to stay with her parents during the summer vacation. She planned to return to her permanent home in the fall and resume her teaching job. She stated that she was qualified for other kinds of work and would accept temporary employment during the summer. Although she had some experience as an office clerk, restaurant hostess, and welfare worker, she made only one attempt to secure employment and that was as a school teacher. The facts did not establish that the claimant was ready and willing to accept suitable employment.

Example 2 - Claimant Eligible:

In P-B-171, the claimant, a crane operator, temporarily relocated from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, Utah. His union had advised him that job openings in the San Francisco area would be few during the winter months. A friend told him that opportunities might exist in Utah. The claimant notified the field office of his intent to seek work in another locality. He registered for work in the Job Service office where he was seeking work. Work in the claimant’s occupation existed there and the claimant, who had applied for such work at the mills and foundries, was willing to accept work within the prevailing conditions. In this case, the claimant moved to a place where temporary work opportunities existed in his regular occupation and took the actions that would be expected of a person looking for work in another area.