Wednesday, May 23, 2012

UC - voluntary quit - follow-the-spouse - newly-married couple

Pa. Gaming Control Board v. UCBR - Cmwlth. Court - May 23, 2012 (2-1 decision)

Facts - Claimant was last employed in August 2010, as a full-time administrative assistant for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. She began dating her future spouse in May of 2008. In August of 2008, her future spouse enlisted in the United States Coast Guard, which sent him to Louisiana, where he was stationed and purchased a residence. In May, 2010, the claimant was married to her spouse. In August 2010, the claimant voluntarily resigned her employment to relocate to Louisiana to be with her spouse. The claimant and her spouse had an insurmountable commuting distance. The claimant and her spouse could not afford to maintain two residences.

The court rejected the Employer's argument that the follow-the-spouse rule does not apply at all, because Claimant’s husband relocated to Louisiana before the couple married. Employer’s argument ignored the fact that under Schechter v. UCBR, 491 A.2d 938 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1985), the "follow-the-spouse" doctrine is applicable to a situation where a claimant begins a marriage living apart from a spouse and later moves to be with the spouse, provided that necessitous and compelling reasons otherwise exist for the move. In such an instance, whether a spouse relocated prior to the marriage is irrelevant to the analysis. Here, it is similarly irrelevant that Claimant’s spouse relocated at a time prior to the couple’s marriage.

The Court also held that claimant showed a nececessitous and compelling reason to locate, under the Schlecter analysis. She showed an economic hardship, an insurmountable commuting distance, and that the move was for reasons beyond mere personal choice. Thus, although Claimant was not required to establish that her spouse’s relocation was beyond her control, she, nevertheless, still was required to and did establish that her own relocation to Louisiana following her marriage was for necessitous and compelling reasons and not merely due to personal preference.

The Board specifically found that an "insurmountable commuting distance" existed, the couple "could not afford to maintain two residences" (as Claimant was not maintaining a residence while she lived in Pennsylvania with her parents), and that Claimant’s spouse "was relocated by the United States Coast Guard to Louisiana where he was currently stationed and purchased a residence." Although Claimant’s testimony reveals that her decision to relocate to where her husband was currently stationed involved some personal preference, Claimant’s testimony revealed that the other factors identified above (i.e., economic hardship and insurmountable commuting distance) also played a role in her decision. Based upon those factors, it is apparent that Claimant acted reasonably and with good faith in making her decision to relocate. The Board, therefore, did not err in concluding that cause of a necessitous and compelling nature existed for Claimant to voluntarily terminate her employment.