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Can I be denied unemployment because I do not drive?

by Reggie
(NJ United States)

New Jersey Recipiency Rates 2006 - 2014

New Jersey Recipiency Rates 2006 - 2014


I was just laid off after being a manager of a company for 5 years. My company filed chapter 11 and closed a bunch of stores, mine being one of them.

I was in great standing with my company and had been promoted to store manager 8 months prior. I received a severance and was told I was able to file for unemployment.

Started my claim, got 2 checks no problem. The thing is I do not drive, but I live at home, and my mom who is home due to being permanently disabled, drops me off, as she needs the car for going to physical therapy during the day. In the event that she could not drive me, I would take a taxi.

I have never missed a day of work because I don't drive, and even helped out other stores in my district. The thing is, I received a letter that I was required to go to a job retraining workshop, in a week, and this was the day my mother was scheduled to have an injection procedure done, and she would be unable to drive me. My father's car was in the shop due to a recall, and my last resort would be to get a cab, but since the one stop career center is far from me, it would of cost me $120 round trip to get there and since I am not working right now, and have to now pay cobra insurance, the cost would of proven to be a hardship.

I called my career center, and explained the situation and asked if I could reschedule to the following week and she said that would be fine. I asked if my checks would be stopped and she said no because I had rescheduled.

Needless to say on sunday I filed online for benefits and they said that I was unable to file for benefits at this time because I had an issue with my claim and I would have to wait for 3 weeks for a fact finding interview. Naturally I panicked and called the next day to see if I could clear this up, but couldn't get through. I called the career center I had spoke to about rescheduling the appointment and she checked for me and said that it said I had noted I had an issue with transportation and that I was disqualified because they thought that I could not get to an offered job.

She said to keep calling unemployment to see if I could clear this up, because she couldn't on her end.

I finally got through this morning and explained the situation, and after being put on hold, after 15 minutes she got back on and told me she spoke to her supervisor and that I was not eligible for benefits because I am not able to get to a job.

I explained the situation but she said I was recorded saying I do not drive, and that I will not need
to wait to speak to the fact finder and provide proof that I have transportation. Is this legal to deny someone who got to work no problem for 5 years? And what proof could I provide if I do not drive the car but get rides? I have googled all over the internet and have yet to find any reason to be denied besides I quit or misconduct. Please help.

Thank you

Chris's Response

Hi Reggie,

First, they haven't denied benefits, at least not yet.

The state has suspended unemployment benefits pending an investigation into a conditional eligibility requirement for anyone who collects benefits - That you be able and available (A&A) to look for and accept an offer of suitable work.

Lot's of people don't drive, but still manage to hold down full-time jobs and collect even if it is known they do not possess a driver's license. So that alone, won't ultimately be the cause for a redetermination denying benefits after that investigation interview, but what they believe as to whether your ability to accept a job that falls within the framework of New Jerseys criteria for what suitable work is for you.

The problem I'm thinking you might of helped along is when you explained way too much, to that first person at the career center about why you had to reschedule that mandated meeting that day.

And it's just a guess, but I suspect they must of done more than just "note" what you said in the system but made an assumption about your ability to accept suitable work.. or the "system" might of automatically flagged your claim for review because a note was made .. who knows.

The point is when they do call you to ask questions about whether you're applying for job, or if you might be refusing any bona fide job offers because of your transportation difficulties, a sound point to make about your ability and availableness, is you held down a job for twelve years without being able to drive .. without resorting to telling that interviewer things that may sound on the surface .. like excuses having to do with transportation.

I only know of two states which have positive for the claimant provisions in law directly related to job/transporation problems - Connecticut and Arizona (which is surprising because if there is two states which vary more on "generosity" on basic unemployment benefit rules, I'd have a hard time coming up with another example off the top of my head.)

When you have the interview .. listen closely to the questions you are asked and make your answers are also concise and to the point. Do not, I repeat, do not elaborate with details that may give the person any doubts that you do not have getting to and from work under control even without the ability to drive.

And to be on the safe side, have your required job search log ready to fax to the interviewer if they go there also.

Good Luck,


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Mar 05, 2015
Interview for unemployment
by: Anonymous

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your response, I feel a little bit better, even though Im still very stressed over the whole ordeal. My other question to you is, when I spoke the very pleasant woman (sarcasm) at the labor department, she said something about that I would need to provide proof that I had transportation to work. What proof would I be able to provide? I do have a valid drivers license, however the car at the house that my mother drives to work with, is in my fathers name, but I pay for it since it is used for my transportation to work. How do I explain this in my claims interview without over elaborating as you said? I feel like they will ask me to explain how I am able to reliably get to work without driving myself. Thanks again!

Mar 05, 2015
Proof .. now they want proof at the initial claim level
by: Chris

It's ironic NJ is now telling someone they need proof. I've been told more than once an adjudicator did nothing but squawk, or refuse documents people have tried to use when they were waiting for an initial determination of benefits.

But back to your point of wanting to have proof.

Maybe a copy of your driver license.

A statement from your mom that she is available to take you to and fro from work on days she needs the car for medical appts.

Maybe public transit schedules .. if you knew where you would one day end up working in the future.

Maybe evidence like prior taxi receipts you paid while you worked for twelve years which should show not having a car in your own name is irrelevant to you getting to work.

Maybe an explanation that a taxi wasn't such a financial burden when you earned a full-time living to reason why you financially could not afford a 120 dollar ride the day you asked to reschedule .. because your living income was limited to a substantially reduced amount of UI benefits required to cover not only your job seeking efforts, but your living expenses.

I don't know if the lunacy of the control UI depts are asserting over all areas of people's lives in general, is escaping anyone's attention, but for me .. an unemployment department is now sort of pushing the envelope .. if you ask me when they suspend benefits on a hunch someone may not be able and available and then require proof to show their hunch was wrong and unreasonable in the first place to make someone wait three weeks to get their benefit back .. or denied until they can show proof to lift a denial .. based on only a hunch.

The craziness is sometimes so absurd .. it defies the imagination of a person who thinks using common sense should be enough to not endanger .. their own benefits.

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