Advocate: Margaretta Kroeger, MetroWest Legal
The client had worked in IT for a tech company until June 2016, when he was laid off. He was approved for UI, but before he started receiving benefits he accepted a new full-time job working in IT at a bank. However, he only worked at the new job for two days before quitting. The commute was much longer than he had anticipated, the pay was significantly less than at his previous job, and although he’d been told he’d be a “team lead” with potential to move into management, when he arrived he was placed in a help desk/support position.
The client then sought to re-open his UI claim. DUA denied his claim, finding that he left the new job voluntarily without good cause “due to dissatisfaction with time spent in commuting to work” despite “being aware of issues related to the commute” when he accepted the job. We attended a hearing and argued that he had good cause for quitting because he’d taken the new job on a trial basis but it was unsuitable given the differences in commute, pay, and responsibility compared to his previous job. The Review Examiner denied the appeal, finding that he was aware of the commute distance and other factors when he took the job and did not have good cause for quitting. The RE concluded that the job was not unsuitable because the position was in the IT field and therefore not “outside his regular work” and that he had not left after a “reasonable trial period” because he’d only worked for two days. We appealed and the Board remanded for an additional hearing.
Based on the RE’s consolidated findings of fact, the Board concluded that the new job was not suitable and the client was not subject to disqualification under § 25(e)(1). The Board wrote that, “even if a claimant had initially thought that the job would be suitable for him, ‘the job may have been objectively unsuitable from the start,’” quoting Baker v. Dir. of Division of Unemployment Assistance, No. 12-P-1141 (Mass. App. Ct. 2013). It observed: “We think this is especially true when a worker has already established a claim for unemployment benefits and is seeking out new work, which may be somewhat different from his prior work. Thus, our focus is not so much on the claimant’s personal feelings or subjective belief as to whether he could do the job, but whether, objectively speaking, the job’s pay and requirements were suitable for a person in the claimant’s position.”
The Board determined that “the job was not objectively suitable for the claimant… even if he subjectively felt that he should try out the job, knowing the location, duties, and salary associated with it.” The Board recognized that the claimant quit his job after only three days and that there was a line of cases decided under c. 151A stating that a person who is trying a new job after filing a claim for UI benefits must give the job a reasonable trial period prior to leaving it. But, the Board observed, “we do not require claimants who establish that there is good cause to quit their employment to stay in a job and continue to try to work things out if doing so would be futile… In this case, the pay rate and job location were set by the employer, and nothing in the record indicates that those things would have changed significantly if the claimant stayed on at his job.”