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Patrick, Esq.
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I work for a small company (under 100 employees) that has 3

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I work for a small company (under 100 employees) that has 3 locations. I believe they are going to close my facility. The nearest next facility is 163 miles round trip from where I live. If they close the facility and ask me to transfer and I refuse, can I receive unemployment? What are my rights during a plant closing? Do they have to give notice to us? Would we receive a severence package, etc.? If they suggest I work from home what are my rights in that instance? Can they demote me and reduce my wage?
Good evening and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. I will do everything I can to assist you.

In general, an individual will be eligible to receive benefits provided that they have received enough wages during the base period to establish a claim (this is almost never an issue), they are physically able and available to immediately accept work, actively seeking work, and unemployed through no fault of their own.

At issue in your circumstance, assuming you quit your position or are let go for refusing to commute to the next facility (really the same thing), would be the last of the above-stated criteria--out of work "through no fault of your own." Typically, when an individual quits his or her job, the EDD reasons that they are unemployed "through fault," since they made the voluntary decision to become unemployed.

The above noted, California law prescribes for certain very limited circumstances in which an individual can quit his or her job with "good cause" and still remain eligible for benefits.

One such exception is in circumstances where the claimant's job requirements are suddenly changed and he or she is required to travel large distances to attend work. In such cases, the EDD often determines that the claimant quits with "good cause." To this end, the EDD states in its "Benefits Determination Guide" as follows:

"Because travel time is subjective, depending upon the claimant's situation and labor market area, there is no hard-and-fast answer for "how much time should the claimant be required to spend in traveling to reach work?"

In P-B-232, the claimant was employed as a telephone operator in Salinas, working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. She walked to and from work. The employer had to reduce its staff and the claimant could have "bumped" into the Monterey office 24 miles away, working 1:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. In holding the claimant eligible, the Board stated:

. . .[S]he would have been required to spend approximately three hours per day in commuting time at what would undoubtedly have been a fairly substantial cost. In addition, the claimant would have had to make other arrangements for the care of her child. Undoubtedly, this too would have involved a considerable extra expense in view of the required additional three hours away from home and the fact that evening care would have to be provided. Considering all of these factors, it is our conclusion that the claimant had good cause for leaving her employment.

As pointed out in P-B-25:

Travel time should not be considered in a vacuum but in context with all other factors such as distance, cost of commuting, the wages paid for the work, the nature and permanence of the job, the nature and permanence of any travel difficulties, and numerous others."

See here for a further discussion of the circumstances under which travel time or distance may constitute good cause for an employee to quit and retain their right to collect UE benefits:,%20Distance%20and%20Cost

So to summarize, while an individual typically cannot quit and remain eligible for UE benefits, excessive travel time or distance can under some circumstances constitute "good cause" for an employee to quit and collect benefits.

With your commute now being increased to 163 miles round trip, that would make your case similar to P-B-232, in which benefits were awarded to a claimant who quit in response to a commute of roughly the same distance. If you can point to other factors which make the longer commute an undue hardship, that would bolster your claim (remember, in P-B-232 the claimant also argued that the additional commute would require her to make arrangements for child car).

If you are given the option to work from home, you would no longer be able to quit with "good cause" because there would be no commute. They can reduce your wages, but generally speaking reductions of more than 30% give the employee grounds to quit with good cause.

Regretfully, employers with less than 100 employees have no obligation to provide notice of layoff or severance unles you have a contract which specifically provides to the contrary.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes to you and thank you so much for coming to Just Answer.
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I hope you have a pleasant evening. Very best wishes to you moving forward.

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