Can I quit and get unemployment benefits because my commute is too long?

My employer is now making me work in a new location. I had been driving 1.5 hours and now it’s going to be 2.5 hours away, roughly 150 miles one way. I work 10 hour days and now it will be 6 hours on the road plus 10 hours working. When I was hired I put on my application 50 mile work distance. The cost of driving is just too much for me to afford, and time off for rest is an issue. Could I draw unemployment if I quit?

Posted  02-10-2010

Ann Kiernan replies:

Your e-mail says you are from Michigan, so while the 50 states’ unemployment systems are similar, I looked at Michigan unemployment law.

Like most, if not all states, Michigan says you are not eligible for benefits if you left work “voluntarily without good cause attributable to the employer.” MCLS §421.29. So is a new 150-mile commute “good cause”? While it might be in some states, I am sorry to tell you that it doesn’t look like it in Michigan.

In a case decided by the Michigan Supreme Court, an auto worker with seven children was laid off from his company’s Michigan plant, and took a job in company’s Indianapolis plant, 273 miles away. He resigned after 2.5 weeks, claiming car trouble, high transportation expenses, unavailability of promised overtime, and the fact that his 15-year-old son had left home. Nonetheless, the court denied his unemployment claim, finding that he had left work voluntarily without good cause attributable to his employer. Lyons v Appeal Board of Michigan Employment Sec. Com. 363 Mich. 201 (1961).

This case is nearly 50 years old, but as far as I can tell, it appears to be authoritative. Please make sure you consult with a Michigan employment lawyer and get current local advice before making your decision. Good luck.

 

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2016-11-18T16:00:42+00:00

About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.