Voluntary Quit VQ 150

Travel: Time, Distance and Cost Factors

This section discusses the distance, time, cost, and other factors affecting transportation and travel that may cause a claimant to leave his or her employment.

A. General

Title 22 Section 1256-8(b) provides:

An individual who leaves work due to distance or other problems of transportation to work does so with good cause if a reasonable person genuinely desirous of retaining employment and similarly situated would have been compelled to leave work after having sought without success all reasonable alternatives by which to provide transportation to work. Transportation to work is the personal responsibility of the employee unless special circumstances or local custom reasonably require the employer to furnish transportation.

In P-B-25, the Board pointed out:

. . .[T]he courts of three different states have held that problems of transportation for work are the personal problem of the employee where such transportation is not an obligation of the employer under the contract of hire. In so concluding, the courts are holding, in effect, that where the employee has not acted prudently and with common sense, undesirable consequences which result from a job termination because of transportation problems should flow more naturally to the party (the employee) that caused such a termination.

The man who walked to work or rode a horse car has been replaced by the automobile driver on the freeway. Persons who live great distances from their work do so usually from personal preference. Small town neighborhoods have become lost in a spreading and exploding population. Small town industry is no longer the mainstay of our economy. Individuals who choose to avail themselves of the advantages of suburban metropolitan living must nevertheless accept the obligation to provide themselves with adequate transportation to centers of employment.

While the emphasis in a voluntary quit is upon the claimant's attempts to secure transportation, the interviewer should evaluate the claimant's efforts in light of the transportation and modes of travel unique to each labor market area. Some areas have public transportation, while others do not; some suburban areas may rely heavily on car pooling, while more remote areas may rely on the individual car and driver. The individual differences in areas would be taken into consideration as well as the claimant's situation when determining a separation based upon transportation patterns.

B. Transportation

When a claimant has left work because transportation facilities were inadequate good cause can be established only if it is shown that after the claimant had exercised all ordinary common sense and prudence the transportation difficulties were still of such a substantial nature as to be insurmountable.

In P-B-25, the Board discussed what would constitute "all prudence and common sense." In this case, the claimant left her employment as a telephone operator after losing her ride to work. She purchased a car, but after three or four days, it broke down and was in a repair shop. The claimant checked with her fellow employees and placed a note on the employer's bulletin board in an attempt to secure a ride. The claimant lived alone in an apartment. Public transportation was available but it required the claimant to walk over one-half mile and ride three buses. The time involved would take one and one-half hours each way. The Board in holding her quit was without good cause stated:

As we view the facts herein, the claimant had at 'least' the following ordinary common sense solutions to her problem of a lack of transportation:

  1. She could have exerted more effort to have her car fixed. . . .
  2. She could have obtained another car.
  3. She could have used public transportation at least until she otherwise solved her transportation problem.
  4. She could have moved her residence to a location which would have eliminated her problem of a lack of transportation.

Since the claimant . . . did not act in an ordinary common sense manner to solve her problem of a lack of transportation for work, she left her work without good cause . . . .

If a consideration of all factors reveals that transportation is so inadequate as to cause hardship for the claimant, the claimant will ordinarily have good cause for quitting. The "hardship for the claimant" usually will be in the form of excessive travel time or expense. However, if the arrangement was only to be temporary, it would not be unreasonable to expect the claimant to accept the conditions.

C. Time, Distance and Cost

  1. Travel Time

    Because travel time is subjective, depending upon the claimant's situation and labor market area, there is no hard-and-fast answer for "how much time should the claimant be required to spend in traveling to reach work?"

    In P-B-232, the claimant was employed as a telephone operator in Salinas, working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She walked to and from work. The employer had to reduce its staff and the claimant could have "bumped" into the Monterey office 24 miles away, working 1:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. In holding the claimant eligible, the Board stated:

    . . .[S]he would have been required to spend approximately three hours per day in commuting time at what would undoubtedly have been a fairly substantial cost. In addition, the claimant would have had to make other arrangements for the care of her child. Undoubtedly, this too would have involved a considerable extra expense in view of the required additional three hours away from home and the fact that evening care would have to be provided. Considering all of these factors, it is our conclusion that the claimant had good cause for leaving her employment.

    As pointed out in P-B-25:

    Travel time should not be considered in a vacuum but in context with all other factors such as distance, cost of commuting, the wages paid for the work, the nature and permanence of the job, the nature and permanence of any travel difficulties, and numerous others.

  2. Travel Distance

    The distance the claimant must commute to work in and of itself, is not a determining factor in establishing good cause for quitting work. Primary weight must be given to the fact that the claimant previously had been traveling the distance to the employer's place of business. Therefore, the claimant cannot with justification state that the distance is excessive.

    In P-B-245, the claimant lived in Costa Mesa and commuted to Inglewood, approximately 50 miles each way. He moved to Laguna Beach, adding another 10 miles to the commute; the overall travel time was approximately two hours each way. He continued to report to work for another five months after the move. The claimant was 66 and was required to climb up ladders to go in and out of airplanes, a physically taxing job. He began to suffer from fatigue from what was essentially a 12-hour day, and on several occasions dozed off while commuting, once driving his car off the highway and into a barricade. In its decision, the Board stated:

    Transportation and willingness to commute to and from work have long posed a problem with respect to a claimant's eligibility for benefits. Suitability of offered work, the availability of a claimant for work, and good cause for leaving work all must be considered within the concept of that which is reasonable as to time, distance, or cost of travel or any combination thereof.

    Analysis of . . . cases . . . decided shows that no definite standards or criteria may be established. Although we have held that 30 and 45 miles are excessive, distance and cost to and from work must be considered in light of the commuting pattern of any given community, including the feasibility of public transportation. Travel time may similarly be viewed as to that which is normal. . . . Additional factors may also be relevant and require consideration. Specifically, the age and physical condition of the claimant which may well affect the safety with which he travels.

    Considering the facts before us, we must decide the eligibility of a claimant, age 66, driving 60 miles to and from work and requiring a commuting time each way of up to two hours, depending upon traffic conditions. This claimant had driven in excess of 100 miles round trip to work over a prolonged period of time. As a result of his move to Laguna Beach, however, the distance of travel was increased by ten miles each way with a corresponding increase in travel time.

    He had attempted in good faith to continue commuting and had previously declined retirement in favor of continued employment. The inevitable fatigue caused by his advanced years coupled with the nature of his duties and excessive commuting made travel to and from work hazardous. Under such circumstance, we find the claimant had good cause for leaving work . . . .

    With respect to the argument that the claimant voluntarily increased the distance to work by moving to Laguna Beach in the first place, the Board stated:

    It is our opinion that the distance and travel time from his former residence in Costa Mesa to his place of employment was also excessive and had he left employment for this reason . . . he would have had good cause for doing so. Thus, we can attach no significance to his change of residence, particularly when he continued to work for approximately five months thereafter. The move was not the proximate cause of the termination.

    For a discussion regarding situations where the move is the proximate cause of the termination, see "Removal From Locality" in this section.

  3. Travel Cost

    In determining whether there was good cause for a leaving of work because of the cost of transportation, the claimant's wage and the nature of his/her employment (part-time or full-time), as well as customary commute costs for comparable occupations in the same community, should be taken into consideration.

    Even when the cost of commuting has been greatly increased, the determining factor is the relation of the cost to the claimant's wage. For example, an individual might be used to riding to work with a friend at no cost. However, the friend leaves work and the claimant must now depend on public transportation. While his transportation costs have increased, if the costs are normal for what comparable workers in the same community pay and are not excessive in relation to his wage, a leaving of work solely because of the travel expense would probably be without good cause.

    In P-B-249, the claimant was employed in Napa at the time the family moved to Fairfield, 19.7 miles away. The distance was not considered an unreasonable commuting distance for the area, but there was no public transportation between the two areas and few people commuted to Napa because there was no industry there. In its decision, the Board found:

    . . .There was no bus transportation or car pools available. Even estimating the expense of driving her car at the low figure of 5 [cents] per mile, it would cost almost $2.00 per day for transportation. [In 1955 the claimant was earning $55 to $60 per week.] In our opinion, this would be excessive. Therefore, we hold that the claimant left her work with good cause. . . .

    The Board found that the claimant considered the round trip of 39.4 miles impracticable not because of the distance involved, but because of the excessive cost: the round trip would have consumed 16 percent or more of her income.

    While this decision establishes that 16 percent or more of a claimant's income is an excessive amount to pay for commute costs, there is no established percentage amount at which point commute costs become excessive.

    Cost of commute can establish a compelling reason for quitting work only if it can be shown that the cost was excessive in relation to the wages paid, and that there was no foreseeable way in the near future for the claimant to reduce the cost.

D. Removal From Locality

The first consideration when the claimant or the employer has moved to a new community is whether it would have been possible or practical for the claimant to commute from or to the new locality. If commuting would have been practical, the claimant would not have good cause for quitting no matter how compelling the reason for moving. Whether commuting would have been practical is not based on whether the claimant thought commuting was practical, but is based on an objective test considering the facts of each case, such as distance, time and cost.

  1. Claimant Moves

    Where the claimant moves from the locality and commuting would not be practical, good cause will depend upon the claimant's reasons for moving. If the claimant had real, substantial and compelling reasons for moving, good cause for quitting could be established, provided a transfer to the new locality was not available.

    Title 22, Section 1256-8 "COMMENTS," also addresses the claimant who moves farther from the work in the following rules:

    A claimant who changes residence to a location from which commuting to work is still reasonable does not have good cause for leaving work due to transportation shifts even if the change in residence is for compelling reasons.

    But: If commuting from the claimant's new residence is unreasonable, good cause for leaving work turns upon whether the claimant's reasons for moving are compelling.

    And: A claimant who changes residence for noncompelling reasons leaves work without good cause even if commuting from the new residence is unreasonable.

    Where the claimant moves from the locality and commuting would not be practical, good cause will depend upon the claimant's reasons for moving. There are numerous reasons why a claimant may be required to change his or her residence; for instance, the claimant may have been evicted, the rent may have been increased beyond the claimant's means, the claimant may have lost a roommate, or the cost of housing may have become excessive because the claimant's hours at work were reduced. The facts must show that the claimant made reasonable efforts to secure other housing in the area before good cause can be established for leaving the locality. Reasonable efforts may include, but not be limited to, checking local newspapers for rental listings or apartment sharing, checking with rental agencies or property management firms, and checking with friends, relatives, and other employees at work. In other words, all of the things a reasonable person genuinely desirous of retaining their employment might do.

    In some cases a claimant, who has moved to an area from which it is impractical to commute may still attempt to continue working. If the claimant works for a "short period of time" and then quits, the primary reason for quitting is the move to the new residence rather than excessive commuting distance. Good cause for the quit is determined by the claimant's reason for moving to the new locality. A "short period of time" could extend to several months. However, if the claimant continues to commute and then quits because of some new and substantial cause unrelated to the move, the primary reason for the separation is the intervening cause.

  2. Employer Moves

    When the claimant's employment moves to a place to which it would not be possible or practical for the claimant to commute, the claimant generally will have good cause for quitting.

    In P-B-232 (previously cited), the employer had no more work for the claimant at his facility in Salinas but the claimant could have continued in employment at another of the employer's facilities 24 miles distant. The claimant would have received the same rate of pay but her hours of work would have changed to require some night work.

    The Board considered all the factors involved and concluded that the claimant had good cause for quitting because:

    Had the claimant taken the job in Monterey, she would have been required to spend approximately three hours per day in commuting time at what would undoubtedly have been a fairly substantial cost. In addition, the claimant would have had to make other arrangements for the care of her child. Undoubtedly, this too would have involved a considerable extra expense in view of the required additional three hours away from home and the fact that evening care would have had to be provided.

    However, if it is the custom in the claimant's occupation to accompany the employment to new localities, the claimant would not have good cause to quit solely because he or she did not want to move to the new locality. Occupations that may require moving from one area to another include, carnival workers, roughnecks, disaster appraisers, and certain specialized construction occupations, to name a few.

E. Investigating Reasonable Alternatives

Title 22, Section 1256-8 (c)(3), provides an individual leaves work with good cause if:

Prior to leaving work, the individual explored without success reasonable alternatives to solve a transportation problem such as a carpool, a transfer to a different shift or a more convenient location with the same employer, or a temporary leave of absence from employment pending the availability of suitable transportation, or other reasonable alternatives which would not cause undue hardship to the individual.

Thus, when a claimant leaves employment because of transportation problems, the following factors must be considered before good cause can be determined.

  1. The claimant must take all reasonable steps to arrange for adequate transportation. The claimant should:
    • Determine if adequate public transportation is available.
    • Attempt to secure a ride in a car pool.
    • Repair old car if currently not in running condition.
    • Purchase another car where financially possible.
  2. If adequate transportation is not immediately available, but the problem can be resolved in the reasonable near future, the claimant should:
    • Attempt to secure a leave of absence until the problem can be resolved.
    • Use whatever transportation methods are available even though they may be considered as impracticable on a permanent basis.
  3. If there is no possibility of solving the transportation problem in the foreseeable future, the claimant should:
    • Attempt to transfer if the employer has facilities within an area the claimant can reach.
    • Where family obligations allow and when financially possible, move his or her residence closer to the employer so that transportation is no longer a problem.