In the recent September 7, 2017 case of Rodriguez v. U.C.B.R., an office manager at a pain clinic resigned from her job to relocate to Florida with her spouse. Her spouse had been unable to find stable work in Pennsylvania. The former office manager applied for unemployment benefits. After her claim was denied, she filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, which denied her benefits.
If an employee voluntarily leaves employment, the general rule is that the employee is not entitled to unemployment compensation. However, an employee can receive unemployment benefits if the employee demonstrates that the relocation is due to a “necessitous and compelling” reason. Within this framework, the “follow the spouse” rule permits an employee to receive benefits if two things are proven: (1) the relocation creates insurmountable commuting problems or an economic hardship, and (2) circumstances beyond the ability of the claimant’s spouse created the necessity to relocate, the relocation was reasonable and done in good faith, and that the relocation was not the result of the spouse’s personal preferences.
In this case, the first requirement was satisfied because of the lengthy commute. But the Commonwealth Court held that the office manager did not prove the second requirement. Prior to relocating to Florida, the husband had been able to maintain some level of employment in Pennsylvania, although not a permanent job. The husband chose to relocate without attempting to find other jobs in Pennsylvania and he did not receive any employment offers in Florida. The Court found the move to be the husband’s personal preference. The Court was also troubled by the office manager’s decision to leave her Pennsylvania job, where she was the only spouse with stable employment. Accordingly, she was not entitled to unemployment benefits.
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