Employee Who Resigned Due to Increased Commuting Time is Awarded Unemployment Compensation Benefits

When an employee resigns from a job, an employee is only entitled to unemployment compensation benefits if there is a “necessitous and compelling reason” for resigning. This can be a difficult standard to meet and is very fact specific. A necessitous and compelling cause for voluntarily leaving employment is one that results from circumstances which produce pressure to terminate employment that is both real and substantial, and which would compel a reasonable person under the circumstances to act in the same manner.

In Intermediate Unit 1 v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, No. 161 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Commwlth. January 6, 2016), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania found that a 66-mile increase in a part-time employee’s daily commute created a necessitous and compelling reason for resigning. The employee, who worked as a part-time warehouse foreperson, resigned from her position and filed for unemployment compensation benefits, claiming that she had no choice due to “transportation problems.” After the employee was already working for the employer, the employee’s place of employment changed to a new location causing a much longer daily commute. The employee testified that she proposed several solutions to resolve the transportation problems, including transferring to a new position closer to her home, working longer days to decrease the number of days she would be required to come to work, and receiving compensation from the employer to offset her travel costs. The employee also investigated the option of using public transportation, but discovered that public transportation was not available. The employer testified that it was unable to accommodate the request for a longer work day and was unable to increase compensation because it would not commensurate with the position.

In order to establish cause of a necessitous and compelling nature, an employee must establish that: (1) circumstances existed that produced real and substantial pressure to terminate employment; (2) like circumstances would compel a reasonable person to act in the same manner; (3) the employee acted with ordinary common sense; and (4) the employee made a reasonable effort to preserve her employment. Pennsylvania courts have previously found that transportation problems may constitute a cause of a necessitous and compelling nature if the transportation issue is so serious and unreasonable as to present a virtually insurmountable problem and the employee demonstrates that he or she took reasonable steps to remedy or overcome the transportation problems prior to severing the employment relationship.

In Intermediate Unit 1, the Court found that there was no dispute that the relocation of the employee’s position increased her commute by a total of 66 miles per work day and the employee credibly testified that such an increase in her commute was not feasible considering the part-time nature of her employment and the employee attempted to remedy her problems, including attempting to find suitable public transportation and suggesting that the employer increase the number of hours she would work per day, but her efforts were unsuccessful. As a consequence, the Court found that the employee established that the additional commute would not have been financially feasible for the part-time job, thus, cause of a necessitous and compelling nature existed to voluntarily resign and the employee was entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits.

Whenever an employee is considering resigning, prior to providing notice, it is critical that an employee carefully explore all reasonable alternatives to resolve the issue which is causing the potential need to resign and document those efforts with the employer. Then, if the situation is not resolved, the employee will be better able to meet the necessitous and compelling reason for resigning standard in order to be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits. Abramson Employment Law represents employees at unemployment compensation hearings. For more information on Pennsylvania unemployment compensation and Abramson Employment Law see http://www.job-discrimination.com/lawyer-attorney-1491925.html

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Filed under Employee Benefits, Employee or Contractor, Unemployment

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