Too Far to Work?

by JLL
(Youngstown, OH, USA)

I live in Youngstown, Ohio. In 2008, I worked for a company through November and was laid off when the local office was closed. I received unemployment until January 2010, when I was offered a job by the same employer... but 65 miles away. I thought I had to take the job under the unemployment laws. As of the beginning of July, I've been in an accident that totaled a car, and had the engine die in another; I've paid an average of $50 a week just in maintaining transportation to work. Additionally, gas is costing me $125 a week, tolls cost $12.50, and I'm missing a day of work- $88- every other week because of car trouble. In total, my commute costs an average of $926 a month, leaving me with just $834 to live on- less than I would earn making minimum wage locally. I am considering quitting this job, but I don't know if I will be eligible for unemployment.

Looking at the definition of "suitable work" in Ohio's statute, I find,

"No otherwise qualified individual shall lose the right to benefits for refusing to accept work IF the work is at an unreasonable distance from the individual's residence. This evaluation is dependent on: {ORC §4141.29(E)(3)}

1. Whether the travel expenses are substantially greater than that required for the individual's former work, unless the employer provides for these expenses; AND

2. The character of the work the claimant has been accustomed to doing. For example, if a claimant works for a construction company that performs work at various job sites within a 150-mile radius of a city, an offer of work within that same radius will be suitable with respect to the distance of travel required."

I also found:

"In determining whether any work is suitable, consideration shall also be given to the following: {ORC §4141.29(F)}

5. Distance of the available work from the individual's residence."

According to this, I clearly could have refused this job offer because it was not suitable work; my old commute was about 12 miles.

My next question is, because I've been there since January (albeit with car accidents and breakdowns, injuries, and illnesses,) has it been too long for me to leave with just cause? I've tried everything I could to continue working, even borrowing money from family, but there is just no solution to the problems. I cannot afford to purchase a new car for work, or to relocate to Cleveland, and I seem to accrue more debts the longer I work there. I think "an ordinary person under similar circumstances" would quit this job and look for something close to home.

What do you think? Should I quit my job and look for something close to home?



Hi JLL,

You raise a valid concern about quitting this job, but if I were you, I do some more legal research.

Yes, I too believe you would have had a good argument to "refuse the work", but the fact is that you accepted the work. So now, quitting becomes iffy at best because the burden has shifted back to you.



But if I were in your place and my job was causing me to go deeper and deeper into debt .. just so I could get to work .. I too would want to quit.

The problem is usually the phrase "attributable to the work or employer". Although Ohio is not a state that restricts quitting to be connected to the work I do not put much stock in trusting that even Ohio or any similar state won't hold your feet to the fire of proving you first tried all reasonable efforts to "preserve the job" by seeking remedy from the employer first as a reasonable option to prove you had good personal cause to quit. See the general information for quitting in the OH legal abstract.

If you scroll down you'll find a precedent to do with quitting due to transportation problems .. which shows your problem .. to now be your problem.

Yes, you probably had good cause to not accept the work in the first place unless the employer was willing to offset the cost of travel because they changed the conditions, but you accepted the job anyway. Your acceptance becomes the problem.

Another problem is that many states which do require a quit be attributable to the work will deny benefits if you don't accept and work long enough until you have enough "data" to show a refusal is reasonable. You know documentation of travel expenses. And then there is this vague line of how long is too long, until you are "assumed to have accepted the new conditions".

Personally, I don't think there's enough information provided. I would want to know if there is any case law where someone was allowed to quit under similar circumstances. I would want to know what they did before quitting that made it possible for a favorable ruling. Any attorney will tell you the way to control the "judge" is to know the case law that compels the judge to find in your favor.

I long ago, used my 24 hour free trial, but you can do a bit of legal research at fastcase.com or you can go to a local law library ..

And it would be very nice if you could provide what you learn if you pursue this course of action.

Or if someone else has already been in a similar situation and has received a hearing decision .. let us know too.

After over two thousand questions .. I've discovered that this little "project" is not going to work unless there is participation .. because contrary to popular belief .. I don't know everything there is to know about unemployment benefits in 51 different venues.

We can help each other .. or we can all drown together.

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