Suitable Work SW 155

Domestic Circumstances

This section discusses situations where a work offer or referral is refused because of domestic circumstances.

It should be noted that the basis for any refusal may also raise a question of availability.

A. General

Domestic circumstances never cause prospective employment to be unsuitable. However, they may constitute good cause for refusal if the following conditions exist:

  • The circumstances are substantial.
  • The circumstances impose a legal or moral obligation upon the claimant.
  • The circumstances allow no reasonable alternative except to refuse the prospective employment.

Family ties and responsibilities impose obligations that range from slight to substantial. Concern for preparing a hot dinner for the family every evening, or arranging working hours so as to permit the claimant to spend evenings and weekends with the family, are natural and commendable but do not provide substantial reasons for refusal.

However, other domestic circumstances may constitute a substantial reason for refusal and will constitute good cause, providing they also impose an obligation upon the claimant and allow no reasonable alternative.

Certain domestic circumstances are commonly recognized as imposing legal or moral obligations:

  • Parents are legally obliged to provide care for their young children.
  • Adult children are, in some circumstances, obliged to provide care for impoverished parents.
  • Attendance at a funeral of a member of the immediate family.
  • Change of domicile to benefit the health of a member of the immediate family.
  • Bedside care for immediate family.

While domestic circumstances usually impose obligations only upon close relatives, for the purposes of the section, kinship is not to be regarded in its strict legal sense. In addition to "immediate family" as defined in Title 22, Section 1253.12-1, any relative or guardian (whether legally appointed or not) may be considered as part of the immediate family.

On the other hand, ties of friendship seldom give rise to a compelling circumstance. For example, a claimant may have good cause for refusing work which prevents her from caring for her ill child; but seldom would she have good cause if the ill person was a best friend.

Strictly speaking, there are always alternatives to refusing work because of domestic obligations. For example, a claimant who must care for an ill parent or child could hire someone to provide the care. However, this alternative may be financially unreasonable. Title 22, Section 1253(c)-2(c)(4) provides in part:

"A finding of good cause depends on a determination that the claimant had no reasonable alternative for discharging the obligation . . . . "

Thus the eligibility determination is not based on the existence of an alternative in the strictest sense, but on whether a reasonable alternative exists.

Additionally, before it can be found the domestic circumstance constitutes good cause for refusal, it must be shown that the claimant explored all reasonable alternatives; such as asking a friend or relative, hiring someone to provide the necessary care, etc.

In those situations where it is not reasonable to use an alternative, such as attending the funeral of a member of the "immediate family", the claimant would normally be expected to contact the employer, explain the situation, and reschedule the interview or postpone the starting time.

B. Care of Children

Parental responsibilities may sometimes require more than just provision of child care. Under special circumstances, such as illness or delinquency, it may require that the claimant provide personal care for the child.

In P-B-304, the claimant’s nine-year-old son was recuperating from rheumatic fever. Although the claimant’s sister-in-law provided daytime care, the claimant refused night work because she wished to provide night care in person, particularly because she had no telephone. The Board stated:

"It is our opinion that the claimant had good cause for refusing the offer . . . . In view of the serious illness which her child had recently suffered, and the known dangers of serious consequences following this type of illness if proper care is not given, the claimant’s desire to be at home with her sick child in the evenings is understandable and based upon good cause. . . ."

It must be shown that the claimant has made all reasonable attempts to make adequate child care arrangements before lack of child care will constitute good cause for refusal. If the claimant has made all reasonable efforts to obtain adequate child care, but is unable to do so, the claimant has good cause for refusal of suitable employment. However, in such cases, the claimant’s availability would be subject to review.

Frequently, the claimant’s reason for not obtaining child care is a question of cost. The claimant may consider that his or her income is insufficient after deducting the costs of child care. The cost of child care, in and of itself, will not establish good cause for refusal. However, exceptions to this principle may arise when the child care costs are substantially increased by conditions of the employment (i.e., split shift jobs or where a lengthy commute is involved).

Another situation that arises regarding children is when an unemancipated minor is required to refuse work based on his or her parents refusal to allow the individual to accept a particular job. The unemancipated minor has a legal and moral obligation to obey the wishes of his or her parents, thus, a refusal on this basis is with good cause.

C. Care of Others

In some cases, a claimant may refuse work because the prospective employment would prevent the individual from providing what he or she considers necessary care for a relative or friend.

The illness of anyone who is not a close relative or member of the immediate family does not usually constitute good cause for refusal.

Cases involving the care of an adult member of the claimant’s family, in some respects resemble cases involving child care, but there are significant differences. The responsibility for care and the relatives’ dependence upon the claimant is usually less direct, less urgent, and usually can be met without the continuous presence or supervision of the claimant.

In considering cases involving care of parents or relatives, the following factors should always be considered:

  • The degree of the claimant’s obligation.
  • Whether the claimant’s actual presence was required.
  • The amount of care necessary.
  • Whether the claimant investigated all alternatives.
  • Whether the available alternatives were reasonable.

A feeling of responsibility, duty, or desire to be with one’s parents or other relatives in their declining years, although understandable, does not constitute good cause for refusal.

D. Household Duties

General household duties, such as cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc., do not constitute good cause for refusal of work or referral.

Household emergencies, such as a broken appliance, plumbing problems, leaky roof, etc., very rarely constitute good cause for refusal because the responsibility can usually be delegated to another family member, or another individual can be hired to perform the duty involved or to handle the emergency.

Additionally, in cases of household emergencies, the claimant would normally be expected to contact the employer to request a postponement of the interview or starting time. However, in cases involving extreme emergencies, such as if a claimant’s house caught fire the morning he was supposed to report for a job interview, the emergency obviously would excuse him or her for not reporting or calling to make other arrangements.

E. Problems of Residence

A claimant may refuse an offer or referral of suitable work because he or she is planning a change of residence in the future. Eligibility in these cases is dependent primarily upon the extent of the claimant’s plans and commitments concerning the move. If the move is only in the planning stages, the claimant would be subject to disqualification if he or she refuses otherwise suitable employment in the present labor market area.

Once the claimant has made a definite commitment to the move, financially or otherwise, he or she would have good cause for refusal in the present labor market area. Examples of definite commitment would include:

  • Arrangements with a moving company.
  • Present home being sold or committed to being sold.
  • Purchase or commitment to purchase a home in the new area.
  • Spouse has obtained work in the new community.

The claimant’s residence for the purpose of determining suitability of employment, or good cause for refusal, is the place at which the individual maintains a permanent home.

In P-B-240, the claimant maintained his permanent home in Eureka and also maintained a temporary residence in San Francisco. The claimant, a longshoreman, returned to Eureka when, because of lack of work, he was unable to continue to support two residences on his reduced income. The Board said:

" . . The claimant had good cause to leave . . . when his earnings were reduced and he had prospects of almost immediate employment in Eureka, since his home and family were in the latter city and he was required to maintain two residences when he worked in San Francisco . . . the claimant had good cause to refuse employment offered several hundred miles from his home. Such employment is not suitable, and is not made so simply because the claimant had accepted similar employment in the past . . . ."

When a transient or migratory worker refuses an offer or referral because he or she is unable to find housing, eligibility will depend on what efforts the claimant has made to secure housing. Most communities normally have some type of temporary housing arrangements available. Nevertheless, if the claimant is not able to accept work because he or she cannot secure housing, good cause may exist for the refusal. However, that same reason would raise a very strong presumption of unavailability.

Last Revised: 01/12/2022