Appeal from the Order of the Unemployment Compensation Board of Review in case of In Re: Claim of Martha V. Gray, No. B-219300.
Michael A. Johnson, Law Offices of John W. Pollins III, for petitioner.
James K. Bradley, Associate Counsel, with him, Charles G. Hasson, Acting Deputy Chief Counsel, for respondent.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., Judge Rogers, and Senior Judge Kalish, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by President Judge Crumlish, Jr.
[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 496]
Quality Building Services, Inc., appeals an Unemployment Compensation Board of Review order overturning a referee's decision and granting benefits to Martha Gray. We vacate and remand.
Quality provides janitorial services to various businesses. Gray worked part-time for Quality at a job site in Latrobe. Quality lost the contract with its Latrobe client. The referee and Board found that Gray was offered similar work at an Irwin site but refused it because Irwin is twenty miles farther from her home than Latrobe. The referee also found that Gray had refused an offer to work for Quality at another site because it was eight miles farther from her home than Latrobe; the Board made no mention of this offer in its decision. The referee concluded that Gray was ineligible for benefits under Section 402(b) of the Unemployment Compensation Law (Act),*fn1 determining
[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 497]
that she had voluntarily quit her employment without cause of a necessitous and compelling nature. The Board reversed.*fn2
Quality contends that the Board erred by concluding that Gray demonstrated necessitous and compelling cause for voluntarily terminating her employment.*fn3 Transportation inconvenience may justify a voluntary quit only if it presents an insurmountable barrier to further employment despite an employee's reasonable efforts to remedy it. Frable v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 53 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 137, 416 A.2d 1164 (1980). The Board concluded that the requirement to commute an additional forty miles per day round trip to Irwin constituted necessitous and compelling cause for Gray terminating her employment.
The Board cites J.C. Penney Co. v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 72 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 445, 457 A.2d 161 (1983), to support its conclusion. We held in J.C. Penney that additional commuting distance caused by an employer's relocation supplied necessitous and compelling cause for voluntary termination. In that case the Board had found that an additional daily commute of thirty-two miles would add $12 to the test claimant's weekly traveling costs
[ 90 Pa. Commw. Page 498]
and that this additional expense would not be reimbursed by the employer.*fn4 Here, the Board failed to make findings regarding additional traveling expense or reimbursement. The Board may not rely solely upon a claimant's bare assertion that an increased commuting distance is overly burdensome. It must carefully examine and make findings on all of the circumstances essential to determining whether an increased commuting distance is an insurmountable obstacle to continued employment and whether the claimant took reasonable measures to overcome this difficulty. These circumstances include, but need not be limited to, (1) the increased traveling time resulting from the longer commute, (2) the additional expense generated by it, (3) whether the claimant sought reimbursement from the employer for this additional expense, and (4) whether the claimant explored alternative means of transportation to the new work site. It is, of course, conceivable that an excessively long commuting distance may, in and of itself, be determinative.*fn5 The Board also inexplicably failed to find whether Quality ...