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Want unemployment? Should have bought a car, state says

Posted by on December 13th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

John Carter says that if his employer
violated a condition of his hiring, he
shouldn’t be denied unemployment
coverage for refusing to comply.
(Photo courtesy Carter.)

A Southeast Portland man is questioning a state decision about when it’s “reasonable and prudent” to switch to a car commute in order to keep a job.

John Carter, 43, says he accepted a job on the condition that he wouldn’t have to drive to work. Four months later, he says, he was fired, then denied state unemployment insurance, after he refused to relocate to an office he feels would have required it.

Carter, who worked as a computer support analyst, sold his car after TriMet opened a Green Line MAX stop near his house. When he took a job with a Lake Oswego-based firm early this year, he said, his contract stipulated he would be able to work in the company’s downtown Portland location rather than at its headquarters, where late shifts make it impossible for him to commute home by public transit.

Four months later, Carter said, the company changed that deal. When he refused to work some shifts in Lake Oswego, he said, they fired him.

When he applied for unemployment insurance benefits, Carter got another surprise: though the state agreed that he’d committed no “willful or wantonly negligent violation” worthy of dismissal, it denied his unemployment insurance claim on the grounds that in that situation he should have acquired “adequate transportation” whether he wanted to or not.

“The state is saying, you have to give up all your values and conform to what we think is today’s vision of society and commuting.”
— John Carter

“I was unfairly terminated, and now I’m asking the state to compensate me for that, because that’s what unemployment is for,” Carter said in an interview. “Now the state is saying, you have to give up all your values and conform to what we think is today’s vision of society and commuting. And just them requiring that puts a huge burden on somebody.”

Carter said it’s the first time he’s been involuntarily unemployed and the first time he’s claimed unemployment benefits.

Craig Spivey, a spokesman for the state employment department, said Thursday that the relevant question is whether “a reasonable and prudent person” in Carter’s situation would have bought a car or found some other way to get to the Lake Oswego site, despite his conditional hiring agreement.

“Each claim is always adjudicated on its own merits, and there’s a lot of moving parts,” Spivey said. “A person gets unemployment benefits essentially because they’re out of work for no fault of their own.”

Carter said he doesn’t think this case is a gray area.

“I’m going to send the form in to request a hearing and then they’ll hear me out,” he said. “I’ll probably have a job by then, but I’m still going to pursue it because I still think they’re in the wrong.”

Here’s Carter’s side of the story in full:

When TriMet built a green-line MAX station five blocks from my house I decided to give transit commuting to work a try. My connecting bus dropped me off at the door to my office. I only needed to walk about 6 blocks in total to commute to work. I instantly became addicted as my car sat neglected in the driveway, so I sold it and never looked back. When I quit that job and when accepting the other few jobs I’ve had since I always made sure that the commute could be done without a car. I usually took the train, bus, or sometimes my bike when the weather was decent.

My last company was headquartered in Lake Oswego so when they offered me a job I said that I would only accept if I could be located at their Portland location. They agreed and I was hired. Four months later they implemented a rotation where I would have to spend 33% of my time in Lake Oswego. I told them I couldn’t do it. Their early shift was too early for the bus to get me there on time, and the late shift got me home too late to get my son on time for the weekends. They refused to bend on their shift schedule or their new rotation policy. But mostly I didn’t want to be forced to extend my commute when I had been working so hard to ensure that all my jobs were closer to where I lived in order to reduce wasted commute time for all those in the region.

I was terminated. I applied for unemployment insurance benefits. For three weeks I submitted the usual weekly forms and for each of the three weeks I got a letter saying I wasn’t getting benefits because they were working on an issue with my claim. I finally called and talked to my assigned adjudicator and after I agreed to waive my child custody time (because I have to be available for at least two shift schedules which means my weekends with my son would be shorter) it came down to me now owning a car.

They explained that because I was a tech worker that my labor market extended to places such as Vancouver, Hillsboro, and Lake Oswego. And because I had to be available for odd shifts that I would never willingly take it meant I could be trying to get to work or home in the middle of the night or early morning when there was no TriMet service.

The solution given by the state? Get a car or you don’t get any unemployment benefits.

I was left in stunned disbelief that in a society where public transit continues to improve and the population is driving less that I would be required to get a car (while I have no job and no money) before I could qualify for unemployment insurance benefits from the state. This is the first time in a decade I’ve been voluntarily without a job. And around the holidays it hurts even more since I won’t be having the Christmas I had hoped for.

I think it’s completely unacceptable for the state to require somebody that has worked hard to lessen the burden of commuting for everybody to buy a car while unemployed so that they can qualify for unemployment benefits after being unfairly dismissed from a job.

I’ve attached an image of the administrative decision letter that they sent me stating that I was declined.

I hope that by drawing attention to this issue that others will be more informed and maybe, just maybe, the state will reconsider it’s outdated policies. You can be sure that I’ll be requesting a hearing with the state to dispute their decision to deny me. If you have any resources to pass along that may help me in my battle that would be greatly appreciated.

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Oliver
Guest
Oliver

The state is requiring you to purchase and maintain a motor vehicle to be eligible for unemployment insurance. This sets a very bad precedent.

Shawn
Guest
Shawn

Oliver, your comment is inaccurate and misleading. The facts as they’ve been stated don’t even allow the possibility of him buying a car and getting unemployment. The state is saying that he’s not eligible for unemployment because he refused to buy a car (or find some other way to work late shifts in different offices) in order to keep his job, not that he needs to buy a car to be eligible for unemployment. Although I’m a dedicated bike commuter myself and would hate to compromise that, I would do it to stay employed and I don’t want the state to pay unemployment to a person who won’t. I respect John’s principles, but I don’t need my taxes to pay for them.

Martin
Guest
Martin

Shawn, your comment is inaccurate and misleading. Unemployment benefits are funded by employers. So unless you have employees, you aren’t paying for it through your taxes.

manville
Guest
manville

That is not about the bike. This guy is super entitled; we are done for in the US. What would our grandfathers have done in this situation?

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

The firm made an agreement with him, and then broke that agreement, so I disagree with your assertion that he is entitled.

If our grandfathers cared about the social and ecological environments, as well as every individual’s health, I imagine they would find no fault with Carter’s position in putting other values before that of a job.

SJE
Guest
SJE

If he was unable to drive because of disability or religious belief, this would be a clear violation of law. If, e.g., his religion forbids him from driving, the state would be violating the First Amendment.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Time to join the Pastor Ted’s Church.

Oregon Mamacita
Guest
Oregon Mamacita

Actually, it would not violate the law to refuse to hire/retain someone
who doesn’t show up on time no matter what the reason. If you cannot/will not perform the essential functions of the job, you can always be fired. For instance, if you work in a deli that serves ham- you
can’t refuse to make a ham sandwich on religious grounds and keep your job.

The need for some workers to have cars is one of the reasons I oppose the no-parking apartments.

SJE
Guest
SJE

Correct. At the same time, an employer is supposed to make reasonable accomodations for disabilities and religious beliefs. Orthodox Jewish doctors refuse to work the Friday night hospital shift, and will have it in their contract that they do not have to work that shift. If the hospital fires them because they need to come in on Friday night, and the state backs the hospital, there is going to be court case. In this case, there was a clear belief-based contractual provision, and the employer reneged, and the state says that the beliefs of the employer should be given no weight.

SJE
Guest
SJE

Sorry, beliefs of the employee

Oregon Mamacita
Guest
Oregon Mamacita

“Beliefs” in this context means religious beliefs. No other beliefs require accomodation. Mr. Carter has sincere and cogent beliefs re: the environment- but they don’t figure into this case.

colton
Guest
colton

Lessoning the burden of a commuting by increasing the burden on an already stressed unemployment fund doesn’t sound too charitable to me.

If he simply doesn’t want to move to a location closer to employment or find other ways to commute, then he can’t really expect other people to bend over to help him out. There are loads of people out there that never had the options that he had to keep his employment.

I think if he was unfairly dismissed, his complaint is with the employer and should be taken up there.

spare_wheel
Guest
spare_wheel

You mean the stressed *INSURANCE* fund that is cutting business taxes because it’s now flush?

“The reason the rates are down is because the unemployment insurance trust fund is at a healthier level,” employment department spokesman Craig Spivey.

http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2013/11/oregon_unemployment_tax_rates.html

Allan
Guest
Allan

Thank you for posting this. Please post a follow up when more information is available

John
Guest
John

Sucks the company broke a promise, but hard to stomach the state being on the hook for this when he could have kept his job by compromising his commuting principles. Many of us working schmucks have had to alter our preferred schedules and modes of transportation because of work.

Tony
Guest
Tony

Would you feel the same if the employer offered him a several hundred dollar a month pay cut or a layoff, because that’s essentially what it is.

Arrogant Cyclist
Guest
Arrogant Cyclist

The state is not on the hook. The unemployment insurance fund is entirely supported by a separate dedicated business tax. It’s also currently healthily funded and has consequently been cutting business taxes.

dan
Guest
dan

I feel like he could have met his employer’s needs without buying a car if he had just looked into getting a thoat or a zitidar.

Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

What about a tauntaun?

Mossby Pomegranate
Guest
Mossby Pomegranate

It will freeze before he reaches the first marker.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal
Todd Hudson
Guest
Todd Hudson

Then we’ll see him in hell!

Rupert
Guest
Rupert

This seemed like auto-correct gone horribly awry on the word “Zipcar” until I googled it.

Kirsty
Guest
Kirsty

My partner lives near downtown Portland, and works in Tigard. He bike commutes daily about twelve miles each way to and from Tigard. When it snowed last week, he was basically one of a handful of employees out of 50 or 60 at the software company where he works, that actually showed up to work. By bike. Everyone else who works there drives, bar a few that take transit.

I don’t know why I find this story funny (not ha-ha funny, just, you know, depressing funny). I guess the notion of a company essentially saying that a car is the only viable option to get to and from work, hasn’t exactly been my experience.

I hope when it snows next, and none of this company’s Lake Oswego employees show up to work by car, they fire them all too! (Not really, but… you know what I mean).

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

I hope John Carter gets a great new job soon! I appreciate John’s persistence in pushing this issue and hope he ultimately manages to get the Unemployment Dept. to see the error of their ways.

This highlights something to me for those of us that sometimes get a little to harsh on car commuters and long distance commuters. It isn’t easy for many of us to go or stay car free. There are a lot of perverse incentives and systemic advantages to car dependence. Yes, I refuse to have much sympathy in general and particularly for people who already have jobs in Beaverton when they chose to buy property in eastern Clark County and then complain about the commute. But it also reminds me that for many people situations evolve out of a series of events.

Of course the real frustration here belongs with Mr. Carter’s former employer. Forcing workers to office in rotation between different offices, guaranteeing that nearly all of their employees will be unable to maintain a manageable commute by any mode other than automobile is extra despicable.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Yes…perhaps there are some transit / car free centric IT companies that would love to have him join their team. Car2Go or Zipcar or TRIMET?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I am curious how far an office could move before people think that someone should be able to basically quit and get unemployment. Lake Oswego is less than 10 miles from downtown it does seem like the guy probably could have figured out a way to get there 1-2 days per week while he looked for a new job more convenient to his home. I agree that the employer is lame for moving his workplace 4 months after he started, but at a certain point unemployment is not really for when your job becomes a little less convenient to get to. It would be great for everyone to be able to walk to work, but I expect that someone on unemployment won’t be limiting their job search to within a mile of their house.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

I think you make some fair points. On the other hand we have to consider it isn’t necessarily that simple either. For one the real question is whether, in the specific circumstance John was “terminated without due cause.” Second, independently of the termination issue the options for commuting seem to involve more issues than might be addressed by your proposed solutions.

1) He accepted the job (possibly over other options, certainly instead of pursuing other options) based on the location and specifically requested he be assigned to that location before accepting which the employer agreed to, at least verbally.

2) He didn’t quit. He refused to work at the Lake Oswego location based on 1) and then was fired. Then he filed for unemployment because he had been unfairly dismissed. So the real question is “was it fair for his employer to terminate him.”

3) The employer pays a major portion of the unemployment for some time period into the unemployment so it isn’t only falling on the state at least in the short term.

Now, even if it was fair for the employer go back on the agreement and order him to work in Lake Oswego part time, was it logical or wise of him to refuse to comply? From the article the timing of the shifts seems to have been an issue. Early shifts before transit is running at peak schedule. Also, needing to get home in time to pick up kids from daycare / school. I agree those obstacles may not be insurmountable, but depending on how much notice they gave John and a myriad of other issues, I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt.

I can totally see flatly refusing to comply, especially if one is in a field where there are generally jobs available.

John Carter
Guest
John Carter

“”was it fair for his employer to terminate him.””

I received two letters from the unemployment department. One saying “Benefits are Allowed” which stated that I was unfairly terminated through no fault of my own. The other one said “Benefits are Denied” because I did not have adequate transportation for my labor market.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

Wow John. I’m certainly no expert in employment law, but that sound completely Byzantine… I really hope you win your appeal.

Pete
Guest
Pete

I too would love to see the actual wording. You are typically entitled to unemployment insurance when you are terminated – the state does not (at first) determine unfairly or not. Since your employer is assessed for your UI payments, they are allowed to deny the claim. If they do so, you have the right to appeal the denial, and they will be required to present evidence of insubordination (or “just cause”) at the hearing. Even in “at-will” employment an employer typically needs good written evidence of a warning to the employee; the courts typically lean in favor of the claimant.

The only other requirement for continued UI payment is that you continue to search for work (and provide evidence of that search when asked). Denying work while continuing to claim UI is a gray area, and it surprises me that your case has reached that stage so quickly… I’m no labor lawyer either, but I have been through these steps a few times in two different states (both as employee and employer).

I’m sure you are familiar with these pages:
http://www.oregon.gov/EMPLOY/UI/pages/ui_issues_affect_benefits.aspx
“A benefit denial can result from being unavailable for work due to lack of childcare, transportation to work, shift limitations, etc. … NOTE: The information presented here is very simplistic and does not present all the legal aspects that can impact an eligibility determination.”

Again, good luck to you. Use the appeals process, and be patient!

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

In this situation, however, it sounds as if John was only in the job for 4 months. And, UI will look at what you made 6 months ago at first so it would be his previous employer on the hook for UI.

Baseskizl
Guest
Baseskizl

If this is the same john I would not be discussing my situation on any public or private fourm. However you should be talking to a good attorney.

Cora Potter
Guest
Cora Potter

He’s no John Carter. John Carter can commute to Mars via his will of steel.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Sadly I have a momentary disconnect I my TV saturated brain tries to resolve John Carter of Mars and Dr John Carter of the show ER.

BURR
Guest
BURR

His employer broke their agreement/contract, and the state is full of BS.

dan
Guest
dan

I do kind of agree that JC could have made some reasonable other effort to get out to LO — ride share, ebike, etc. Having said that, if his contract said he would be employed downtown, isn’t his employer in breach of contract?

Dave English
Guest
Dave English

Okay, so turn this around. I am a small employer in the central core, who doesn’t have parking. I require all but one of my employees to walk or bike to work. THe exempt employee drives and parks in the only space I have. Then I decide to expand and use the parking space for storage. The employee refuses to bike or walk to work, so I fire them. What does the state do?

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

well probably nothing because that employee would either stop driving or buy a parking place at his own personal expense I’d guess…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Keep going…

The employee refuses to pay for parking or stop driving, and then he gets fired. He applies for unemployment. What does the state do then?

Oregon Mamacita
Guest
Oregon Mamacita

Employee gets UI because he was not fired “for cause.” Employer has no right to require any sort of behavior off site. No right to mandate any particular form of transport. Employee probably has no cause of action, because you can fire someone for a stupid reason as long as that stupid reason is not gender/religion/national origin etc.

Arrogant Cyclist
Guest
Arrogant Cyclist

ever heard of public transport?

John Carter
Guest
John Carter

Did the terms of that person’s employment include the ability for them to drive and park at work?

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Let’s suppose this lone driver is paraplegic or worse. They own a custom automobile that allows them to live a normal life. Similar rides by the LIFT service may be exceptionally slow and unreliable to a degree that makes our worst preforming bus route look like a Mussolini era train.
If that person can’t work anymore the costs in disability payments by the government more than outweigh the costs of the parking space’s real estate value.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Pre-Mussolini era. Mussolini was renowned for making th trains run on thyme time. 😉

will p
Guest
will p

MA, would it be possible to post the relevant sections of the administrative decision? I am confused on the grounds of denial. From Mr. Carter’s email it seems that the benefits are denied because he will not get a car now, to be available for tech support shifts outside of transit hours. Your article seems to indicate he was denied because he didn’t get a car and prevent the termination in the first place.

Steve
Guest
Steve

Hope he finds work soon! It sounds like maybe he has a breach of contract claim. However, I don’t think he should be able to collect on unemployment insurance.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Factories across the country have closed, and people in technology are the new shift workers. For anyone in tech, the days of working 8 to 5 ended with the last century. It’s a 24×7 global world, and employers demand that folks be available to work odd shifts. Almost ALL tech workers have to do this during testing, go-live and stabilization periods.

Additionally, some workers (like John Carter) have to do evening or overnight shifts on an ongoing basis. In the global economy, companies’ systems are running at least 24×6: there’s always someone logged in somewhere in the world, and you’re always supporting “overnight” data processing for some region that just left the office for the evening.

These are the job requirements these days. Being available to work non-standard shifts sometimes means coming and going when TriMet isn’t running. It would be nice if companies would always locate in places with great transit service so shift workers didn’t all have to drive, but there’s no law saying they have to.

Even in TriMet’s strongest service areas there is no service between around midnight and 6am. During those hours you have the following options.
1. Drive. Unfortunately that’s what most people do.
2. Go by bike.
3. Get a ride from a friend or family member. Works if you’re temporarily working an odd shift, but not a long term situation for most people.
4. Use a zipcar, conventional rental car or (if both home and work are in their service area – yeah, right!) Car2Go. Probably same as #3, but you could do it for some period while you’re trying to work it out with your employer or trying to find a new job.

All that said, I don’t agree with the state denying his UI claim. He wasn’t fired for cause; he was fired because his job situation changed, contrary to the condition of his hiring. That happens all the time, and it’s not illegitimate for the company to let him go; but still, this is a layoff by any reasonable conception. I hope the decision is overturned. Besides the basic fairness issue, it would also encourage employers to locate in places that are actually attractive to workers.

Beth
Guest

Factories across the country have closed, and people in technology are the new shift workers. For anyone in tech, the days of working 8 to 5 ended with the last century. It’s a 24×7 global world, and employers demand that folks be available to work odd shifts.

and this, IMHO, is a major factor in the disintegration of family life and a sense of social compact. In a global economy where workers are not respected, it really has become every man for himself. I would not want to be a very young person in this economy.

Andrew Seger
Guest
Andrew Seger

Considering TriMet is funded by business taxes and exists to get people to and from jobs we should really make businesses pay more for more transit service. Why should society pay for all the costs of a 24/7 business? It might be better for the company, but it’s often bad for the rest of us. All part of shifting to a user-fee based tax. Land for suburban office parks is only cheaper because we’ve all let companies shift the transportation costs onto all of us.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

How about a sliding scale of two multipliers: distance from 24/7 transit and total number of employees.
These factors would increase linearly as a company employs more people and as it places itself further from city public transportation infrastructure (heck all urban infrastructure).

There is a financial draw for companies to move to cheap rural land, get it rezoned commercial and make our local governments pay for all the roads, sewer, water, electrical wires, and expanded EMS & police service all on the diaphanous promise of future tax revenues.
No one ever considers that the most cost saving infrastructure, public transportation, should be part of a new or preexisting area.

Tax companies a rate fir supporting public transportation that increases with distance and total employees and the business sector will come beating down our doors foe dense urban development.

Paul Wilkins
Guest
Paul Wilkins

Be prepared to submit multiple appeals. If you want to do it yourself, go to the Multnomah County Law Library and look up the administrative code to help understand the basis of law. If you have access to a university library, you may be able to look through prior decisions to support your appeal, if the law doesn’t offer enough. May not hurt to get an attorney.

was carless
Guest
was carless

Unfortunately, this is typical of tech support companies. They like to change the rules on the fly, and force their employees into all sorts of not very fair circumstances – ie, you get to work every holiday, including christmas eve and day, and if you are late, you don’t get paid, etc. Been there, done that. No thanks!

Pete
Guest
Pete

“I was unfairly terminated, and now I’m asking the state to compensate me for that, because that’s what unemployment is for,” Carter said in an interview.

The state does not compensate for wrongful termination, they pay unemployment insurance to the extent you have paid into the fund. If you wish to seek compensation for wrongful termination, you must launch a civil case against your former employer. Unemployment Insurance is not meant to compensate for unfair termination, it is meant to provide financial assistance during gaps in employment – a kind of ‘forced savings’ if you will.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

Technically true. However you do not receive unemployment at all if you were “terminated for just cause.” So while receiving unemployment is NOT compensation for being fired unjustly, it is proper reception of unemployment. If one quits or gets fired for good reason and the employer documents well, one will not be eligible for unemployment.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Yes, correct – I actually wrote that up but had to edit it down for some reason because BP said “error” when I tried to post it. John’s best option here is to continue to use the appeals process on the UI claim. May also want to consult BOLI (www.oregon.gov/boli) on this – ask what the process for continued appeals is. In my opinion, best to understand and chart out a course of continued action before discussing specifics of the case with each of the involved entities along the way. Save the specifics for the hearings, after learning what leverage is possible at each step.

John Liu
Guest
jyl

Suppose someone chooses to live in a neighborhood where no jobs in his industry are located. Then suppose he decides he will only accept jobs in his industry that he can walk to, because he does not like to drive OR to ride a bike, and transit doesn’t run at the necessary hours. There are no such jobs. Should he continue receiving unemployment benefits?

How is the hypothetical above so very different than Mr. Carter’s situation? Why should the law say it is okay to refuse to drive a car but not okay to refuse to ride a bike?

Living an all-bike, car-free existence is a lifestyle choice for most who do it – i.e., those who aren’t forced to car-less-ness by poverty. If you want to live that lifestyle, you should be prepared to structure your life as necessary. For one thing, don’t live farther from available jobs than you are willing to ride.

By the way, if Mr. Carter lives around the 205 (guessing, since that is the most recent Green Line expansion), he has about a 10 mile bike ride to Lake Oswego. That is not impractical.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Because he signed into his contract that he wouldn’t have to work at Lake O. To me that’s the kicker here!

ws
Guest
ws

@ Michael Andersen

I think this is an interesting article, but it’s avoiding discussing one of the bigger problems in the metro/city in regards to getting more people out of their cars into a car-free lifestyle and that is the City of Portland and Multnomah County lacks the employment bases that some of the suburb cities and counties possess. The unfortunate problem is they have the better paying, more stable jobs available for people.

Why is the city losing out in some aspects to better jobs to the suburbs? Do we not have trained workers? Do we lack office spaces for businesses? Is cost-of-business too high like special taxes CoP and Mult. County has?

We need major employers to come to downtown/Portland. It will only increase transit, cycling, and bicycle rates; our city is set up more for that type of people movement to occur.

Until then, “job sprawl” will only increase car use and stagnating transit/bicycle rates because people don’t want to commute too far for their jobs, thus they’ll move to areas not conducive to alternate means of transportation like the suburbs.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…in regards to getting more people out of their cars into a car-free lifestyle and that is the City of Portland and Multnomah County lacks the employment bases that some of the suburb cities and counties possess. …” ws

Example?

Intel in Hillsboro is served by light rail, and some bus service as well, I suppose, and has housing nearby, yet a major percent of the company’s employees nevertheless drive. Even with housing and transportation options close to employment, depending on the nature of regard employers have for their employees, an employee could still find their self in an unemployed situation similar to that of John Charles.

Unless there’s an ironclad provision in the hiring contract, obliging the company not to let employees go for lack of transportation means acknowledged and mutually agreed upon as a condition prior to hiring…if the company says ‘Go, here’, the employee probably has to do that if they want to keep the job.

ws
Guest
ws

@wsbob

Intel’s a bit of a different employer example. It’s niche and contradictory. It’s a manufacturing site but also home to a lot of white collar jobs. Manufacturing is a bit different than your typical office job where the need to be in a suburban setting is not necessary.

As far as Intel’s proximity to transit and its placement in the urban environment; it is not conducive to major transit use. It’s close to a mile away from the light rail stop. This isn’t with the transit-stop shed goal of 1/4 – 1/2 mile generally applied by TOD principles.

A better example is in Seattle. Microsoft is in the suburbs and Amazon is in the downtown area. Amazon is creating an urban renaissance in its South Lake Union neighborhood with its thousands of jobs, and density and transit use will follow it.

It’s not just Intel in the suburbs, a lot of jobs and spurned downtown/Portland for more favorable representation in more “businesses friendly” environs.

I’m not saying I’d do that if I ran a business, but the city’s and county’s business taxes do pose a challenge to certain business structures. The difference can literally by thousands of dollars, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, to operate in downtown versus the suburbs depending on what you’re selling or doing and other financial stuff. It’s a complicated, narrow-based tax.

http://wilkencpas.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/why-the-portlandmultnomah-county-business-tax-needs-reform/

Add in some other challenges of running a business in the city, it becomes apparent we need to get serious about employment density in the city. Despite the doom and gloom, office space vacancy has done well compared to other suburban cities, that is a good thing.

But why even make the suburbs a place a business operates. Why not make the city “the place” to go in the first place?

Until then, people will be using their cars, and the statistics don’t lie. Bicycle rates are stagnating of late and people haven’t been using much transit to work since the 1990s.

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/01/portland-another-challenging-chart.html

Increase white-collar employment density in downtown Portland (and Lloyd Center). The rest will be easy.

Pete
Guest
Pete

Correct – Intel is huge and not entirely served by public transit. Sure, there are ways to commute to some areas via light rail, but when I worked for a subsidiary of theirs in California I flew to meetings there frequently, and almost always had to go by rental car because I couldn’t map out viable alternatives (taxi service there is quite unreliable, I found out the hard way). Ironically having lived in the area before and getting around mostly by bike, I dreaded having to drive around there.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

ws…thanks for the thoughtful response.

Whether the location is Downtown, or out in the suburbs, for all around health of the people, the area we live in, that of the economy…people that are willing to reside where they’re able to commute back and forth to work without use of a personal car, ought to be supported in doing that.

Companies that agree to hire them, ought not to be pulling the rug out from under their feet by saying at time of hire: ‘We’re glad to have you on…no car, no problem’…then later, going wishy-washy, and saying, ‘Sorry, without a car, you’re now expendable.’.

ws
Guest
ws

@wsbob

I don’t disagree that companies shouldn’t be doing that. My comments are a response to the broader issue that we need more jobs serviced by quality alternatives. This cannot be fully accomplished in the suburbs.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

In this comment thread, jvl:

http://bikeportland.org/2013/12/13/want-unemployment-should-have-bought-a-car-state-says-98556#comment-4482339

…thought Charles possibly lives not Downtown, but in a neighborhood near I-205, which is approximately 5 miles from Downtown. Lake Oswego, where the company he worked for wanted to relocate him, is approximately 7.5 miles from Downtown. This bikeportland story notes that it wasn’t the further 2.5 mile distance from Downtown that posed the problem for Charles’ commute, but the company headquarters late shifts that made the commute impractical by public transit.

More employment opportunities located either in or near big city Downtowns, can be a good idea, but that would not necessarily keep the kind of problem that occurred here, from happening.

kittens
Guest
kittens

Fascinating philosophical question this brings to mind: at what point do we realize we are all working to keep working. Have a car to have a job, have a job to buy a car. Sacrifice all rights and morals to work. Wage slaves all. Really, what is the point in participating in this ridiculous economy if you are not one of the 1 percent it just doesn’t make sense.

mike
Guest
mike

I participate in this economy so that when I’m on my death bed people don’t say, “That Mike was sure principled, principled to the point he didn’t want to be part of this economy so he lived like a bum on the street.” I also participate in this economy so that I can pay property taxes in case one day I may need to call 911. Because I know that my fire,police and ambulance are all funded through taxes I know I’m getting the best qualified people to respond. That’s just two reasons I’m part of this economy, I could list no less that 20 more with a full explanation of each but I’m bored and ready to go do something different. So tired of the idea that the economy ONLY benefits the 1%, like nooooooo part of the economy does ANYTHING for anyone else.

TOM
Guest
TOM

Michael Andersen (News Editor)

On the other hand, I’m sure there are some people who commute three hours a day to a job at a fast food joint

since you are SURE of this, please cite your sources.

Kittens
Guest
Kittens

A three-hour one-way commute via TriMet is entirely plausible and I am sure it is common

El Biciclero
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El Biciclero

An interesting question for me has always been “how much of my personal property can my employer expect me to put into service for their business?” Now, commuting to work is not really part of doing business, but can an employer expect or require someone to make a huge personal purchase, like a car, possibly go into debt and face a financial burden just to get to work because “that’s what ‘everybody’ does?” In this case, there may have been less expensive options than buying a car, such as hiring a cab for occasional late-night trips home, but I get that the point is the employer promised to honor a condition and then broke their promise.

Slightly off-topic and on a somewhat lesser scale than a car, could an employer insist that I purchase a personal smart phone and pay for a non-WiFi data plan because they want to be able to email and video chat with me at any time, and besides, who doesn’t already have a smart phone with a data plan? Could an employer insist that I own a personal computer capable of a certain amount of processing power and that I pay for high-speed internet service so I can log in from home and perform necessary work duties? Can an employer insist that I buy at least three suits? Wear a watch? Own a pair of shiny shoes? There are always things that employers expect of their employees that require some kind of personal outlay by the employee, but how much is reasonable?

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…There are always things that employers expect of their employees that require some kind of personal outlay by the employee, but how much is reasonable?” El Biciclero

People routinely have to meet all kinds of conditions set by employers in order to get and keep jobs. Whether or not the conditions set are reasonable, often is secondary to getting and keeping the job.

When appropriate, let’s hear more about the agreement Charles employer is said to have consented to with him as a condition of his employment. That’s important to understanding whether the request the company subsequently made of him after working there for four months, was reasonable or not.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Take a closer look at this excerpt from this bikeportland story quoting bits and pieces from an apparent interview with Craig Spivey, state employment department spokesman:

“…Craig Spivey, a spokesman for the state employment department, said Thursday that the relevant question is whether “a reasonable and prudent person” in Carter’s situation would have bought a car or found some other way to get to the Lake Oswego site, despite his conditional hiring agreement.

“Each claim is always adjudicated on its own merits, and there’s a lot of moving parts,” Spivey said. “A person gets unemployment benefits essentially because they’re out of work for no fault of their own.” …” bikeportland

Spivey poses the question of whether there’s fault on Charles part for being let go due to his not arranging for transportation that would allow him to meet his location/shift reassignment.

Even if it wasn’t fair on his employer’s part, maybe the best thing for him to have done, after being given the ultimatum, would have been to go right out and get some kind of motor vehicle transportation…scooter, motorcycle, a heap, a rental…whatever…so he could get to work and keep the job. Then, if he continued to feel the company reneged on a pre-hire agreement that felt he needed to pursue action against, he could proceed in doing so, knowing that he was squared away with the the state employment dept.

sw resident
Guest
sw resident

These are excellent points, especially the scooter or motorcycle suggestion. this is a transportation mode too often left out of the discussion – forget the bike vs car or bike vs extremely low autonomy bus. Consider instead bike AND motorbike. It is the perfect vehicle for those in the outlying areas (LO, Gresham, Hillsboro, etc) or those who have multiple quick trips all over town to make. Fast, efficient, easy to maintain, cheap. My motorcycle cost $2200, gets 105 mpg. In 3 years it evens out bus fare costs and is less than my road bike costs. for example, the honda c90 is the most popular vehicle in the world (over 60 million sold) – get one of these. I have lived between 8 and 15 miles from my downtown job and my motorcycle and bike are complimentary and are all I have used for commuting for over 12 years.

Travel Jill
Guest
Travel Jill

A lot of job postings on craigslist require a smartphone, home internet service, a laptop… so, yes, it is often expected.

Ben
Guest
Ben

Michael, thanks for reporting this unbiased. I’m no journalism expert, but often BP doesn’t seem able to report unbiased.

Isaac Porras
Guest

When I asked a recruiter to help me find public transportation to work, they said that I must have gotten drunk and got my driver’s license revoked. Non-car owners have a stigma of laziness and irresponsibility. That is the society we have created together in Umerca. It’s the price we non-car owners pay for our rationing of Earth’s resources.

Todd Hudson
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Todd Hudson

Being so rigid about your personal beliefs that it’s detritmental to your kid is slightly narcissistic.

davemess
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davemess

Not in Portland!

Tony Choate
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Tony Choate

You don’t understand the situation. It’s not a question of whether he can be fired for not having a car. It’s a question of whether the employment department can deny him unemployment if the employer changes conditions of his employment after the fact to require a car.

It’s a meaningful distinction, I hope you spend the brain power to understand it.

Apartments without parking is not relevant to this article, push your agenda elsewhere.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

I’ve been out of work in Portland before, for stretches of 4 and 7 months. Both were hell on my finances and I’m still, three years later, recovering from debt accrued during that last bout. In that year I applied for over 50 jobs– I too, work in tech– and with no income coming in, not even unemployment, it never even occurred to me that I should be “picky” about where an employer was located or even what I was paid. Oh, I’d have to drive out to Hillsboro? Tigard? Fine, as long as I could stop putting everyday essentials on a credit card and selling my belongings on Craigslist to make rent.

Holding down a job and building a career is the one thing that will grant you the freedom to pick where and how you live. Beggars can’t be choosers.

DG
Guest
DG

I commute from LO to Portland every day, so I’m not sure what John’s reasoning for not being able to continue working. It sounds like a personal preference to me, which does not merit unemployment.

Paul Johnson
Guest
Paul Johnson

Welcome to Oregon.

Joe
Guest
Joe

This is just wild story! seems not right and the EDD is kinda a mess here I was harassed myself after place I worked for kinda did the same thing, BTW was there for 3 years, biked and took max I was always on time at the same time see transit works like that, but they still didn’t seem to understand LOL same time everyday like clock work, if you drive your time will vary. * I’m seeing a new trend if these places out in the burbs don’t get how ppl get around seems you get the job if you own a car. * lame *

grimm
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grimm

Did he get his Portland office stipulation in writing? Seems like he look for retribution from them if they violated his contract. I’m sure it’ll be long and drawn out but maybe worth it.

Now the larger question at hand is what should be considered a reasonable commute to the unemployment office? If I get terminated do I have to own a car to be eligible? And even then what is reasonable? Lake O? Wilsonville? Salem? I’m sure some people make those commutes but at what cost (financial and my time) and to the environment?

rwl1776
Guest
rwl1776

One word: ZIPCAR. They asked him to work in Lake Oswego 33% of the time. Every third week he could use a Zipcar. Job saved.

Kristen
Guest

Car2Go would be better. If you used a Zipcar you’d have to rent it for the entire day and it would be sitting in your office parking lot for 8 hours.

Skid
Guest
Skid

This brings up an interesting question. How do food service/retail employees people get to work in Lake Oswego? They sure can’t afford to live there, and public transit to Lake Oswego is a joke. Getting there by bike is not easy, and although it may be 10 miles to Lake Oswego, it is very sprawled out so that is going to add to your miles.

If he informed them before he was hired that he would not be able to work in Lake Oswego, the company really has no leg to stand on. They hired him knowing that he could not travel there to work. The state allowed his claim, and then the company appealed and it was denied. This is a pretty good example of how a corporation has more sway than a single person. He needs to appeal the decision.

It also brings up another issue. Why can’t a large company have some sort of carpooling or shuttle in place if it is going to be having employees working at two locations, and one is not readily accessible by public transit?

The only job that should should require you to own a car is one where you use your car in your job to travel from one place to another. In that situation I think a company car should be provided.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

a few details and missing details from Mr. Carter’s account lead me to believe that he was not very committed to keeping this job, and transit was not likely the sole reason for his departure.

His reasoning for not driving isn’t just mainly ideological, it is nonsensical. “in order to reduce wasted commute time for all those in the region,” would make more sense if the problem commutes weren’t at times with basically no traffic.

Missing detail: a written commitment from the company that says “no shifts in Oswego Ever, we Promise.” If Carter doesn’t have one, and the company changes a policy at a level above that of the verbal promise maker, it seems like the sort of thing that happens any time work is relocated. No Car isn’t a panacea for working crummy shifts.

Final bias: Training employees is expensive! Not all industries are alike, but in many industries a company will accommodate a talented, promising employee who has a schedule issue, if the position allows for flexibility. An inflexible employer probably isn’t a big career builder usually anyway. Happy job hunting!

I don’t know nearly enough about unemployment law to have an opinion re: Carter’s rights. Hopefully publicly airing his grievances is cathartic! Great story BP! Thanks for sharing, John!

Mike
Guest
Mike

I missed the part of the story where his company required him to buy a car. He was fired for not being willing to work part time in LO.

LO is not that far of a bike ride from SE PDX. Sure, it’s not as convenient as downtown, but if your job requires it, toughen up and allow a bit more time for our commute.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

I don’t know John Carter and I don’t know the details of this case. I am quite surprised how many BikePortland readers are so quick to judge John harshly for his decision. I feel a bit like I’m reading comments on the Columbian. I guess I owe Cathy Hastie at least half an apology. Apparently BP readers are pretty darned arrogant.

I submit that people work and transportation issues for most folks are a bit larger than the simplistic analysis I see above from those who think John should just “suck it up.” Again, I don’t know the details, but I do know that family life, the needs of children, day care and school transportation, and juggling schedules of parents work are real and valid considerations that factor into workplace and transportation decisions. When the employer subsequently makes changes that scramble that balance, especially when the worker made clear the arrangements they needed, it is a substantial change in the employment agreement.

I think that adding an extra 30 minutes each way to your commute (which you carefully considered in choosing employment) is actually big deal. I myself make sacrifices and so do many families I know. Many people choose to make family time a priority especially when kids are young. Many choose jobs that fit with the schedule and needs of the family rather than maximizing income. To own and operate a vehicle requires more work hours to pay for than being car free.

Too often parents don’t have a choice. They can’t afford to miss even one paycheck or their job options are too limited. They have to suck it up, but the family and children pay the price. Apparently John is in a better situation than many and believes he can afford to take a stand. I applaud him for that.

I am not surprised that may BikePortland readers have little sympathy for families and parents. I think they are pretty arrogant and smug to feel that way. I am surprised that so many BP comments demonstrate a lack of sympathy for workers and for people trying live car free in a auto dominated world.

If I knew more facts about an individual situation, I might agree that getting the pay check should be the priority. At the same time I would probably still believe that employers should treat their employees better.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

I don’t see how criticism or evaluation is unwarranted here. Carter made himself a public figure, at least the protagonist of his own story. based on his willingness to share, I imagine Carter at least considered that he would read alternative perspectives. If he came for Just Support and legal advice on getting unemployment, he isn’t an avid BP reader.

I think that honest, constructive criticism is more valuable than encouraging words. I hope Carter doesn’t go hungry, his kid doesn’t go hungry and so forth… it has little bearing on what I said. I really do wish him luck in life. Cutting his sideburn beard could help.

davemess
Guest
davemess

Paul, I agree with a lot of what you said, but I noticed you didn’t address the issue of his demanding unemployment. I gather that is what MANY on the comments have issue with.

I’m not sure how I feel about this whole thing, but agree that it was probably handled poorly on both sides.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

I agree that the issue most worthy of discussion here is the unemployment question. The judgements about whether Carter exercised responsible judgement is a bit out of bounds IMO without at least much more information.

As for the unemployment question I have 2 aspect I think are important to explore.

First, why do we have unemployment insurance? Why does it exist? What is the rationale? What historical causes are there in the development?

I am no expert but I think unemployment is exists primarily to keep employers from taking undue advantage of employees. It is a safety net that exists so that employees are less at the mercy of employers. Agreed, protection from lay offs and business closures is also significant and I am not sure where lies the balance between those two objectives historically.

Changing work schedules or work locations in manner that takes advantage of the employee are certainly legitimate issues for unemployment.

Second, the reason this story is of interest to this blog and the readers of BP, transportation and policy. As a matter of policy should the state penalize people for trying to use smarter transportation choices? Should the state adopt policies that discourage car free households? Should the state instead adopt policies that require employers individually and collectively to seek to improve transit and alternative transportation? Should the state seek to further entrench through policy the auto-domination of the urban area or should there be efforts to un-do policies that promote car dependence.

I have seem very little discussion of this second point that seems most relevant. Instead more people seem to be interested in whether John is just a wimp or an idealist or how responsible he is as a father without any actual information on his family and financial situation.

Mindful Cyclist
Guest
Mindful Cyclist

Paul, if I am reading this correctly (the story seems different than that John has said), John did not get denied UI by his employer and the state gave it to him. Furthermore, since he was not there for more than 6 months, the employer that broke the contract is not the one responsible. The prior employer is. He was then denied when he said he was not going to be able to possibly get to work. The biggest stipulation for getting UI checks is that you have to be ready and willing to take a job if you are offered one.

I have had the unfortunate experience of being on it twice and the last time I had an overpayment I had to pay back. And, one time I got an email from the state that said to apply for this job in St. Helen’s when I lived in the Hollywood Dist. I had no choice but to apply for it even though that is way to far for me to travel. I could not go back and say that was too far–otherwise I would not be eligible. Fair? I don’t think so, but when I agreed to take UI, I also agreed that I would be ready and able to work if offered.

I do hope that John is correct and he has a new job soon and this will be a minor blip in his life. Let’s hope he can find one a job that does not require a car as well.

Duncan
Guest
Duncan

I keep thinking of what ifs.
Like:
What if John took the job stipulating he work in Portland because he could not drive due to a medical condition?
Or what if he took it because he had never had a lisence ?
Or because he had lost his lisence?

In each of these cases how would each reader judge the validity of his claim to unemployment?

Also how much does this job pay? If it pays 70k I can see getting a car, but given what a car costs in Portland I think it’s unreasonable of an employer to demand he get a car for a McJob. If they want to move him to Fake Oswego for 15$/ hr they should setup the shifts around transit at least.

Now myself I am a confirmed workaholic. I would have figured something out short term, and started peddling my résumé harder than a snake oil salesman at the county fair. I would have talked to my ex about parenting time and said look you get more Child support from a working ex husband cut me some slack on the visitation until I can get a better job (I have an ex and pay child support so I know how this works) . But if John signed an agreement on employment saying that he was only working downtown, and they violate it then yes they should,pay his unemployment while he looks for work. Moreover seeing as the trimet area has great transit options I do not think the state should require him to buy a car to get to work.

Best of luck to you John. Job hunting sucks hang in there.

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

Why didn’t he ride his bike from SE to LO? It’s not that far……………
Or, he could have rented a car…………

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

One of the requirements of employment is getting to work. That is your responsibility if the work offered is local. Many people have to travel to client offices for their job using their own transportation (usually via a car). But all are free to get to work via their method of choice: bike, walking, carpooling, bus, taxi, etc, etc, etc. CLEARLY the state is not forcing anyone to use a car to get to work, but that’s the most popular option.

You can rent a Corolla from Hertz in Milwaukee on Saturday AM and return it Friday night for $158 per week. Yup, it’s an expense, but then you still have a job.
https://www.hertz.com/rentacar/reservation/#vehicles

I must say I side with the state in denying the unemployment claim. If my employer says “You can go to work at this site, it’s all we can offer you right now, or we’ll have to fire you”, then I’m going to show up at the site where the work is located. I’ve done it many times. Many times they have said: We have some work for you in XXX state; otherwise we will have to lay you off. I always go to XXX state to keep my job. It sucks. Not having a job sucks more. Take the least sucky option. 😉 Of course in that case they buy the plane ticket and a rental car at the work location. And that uses a lot more fuel than just driving to work here in town; but at least you have a job and can pay your bills.

One guy at work got several DUIs. His license was revoked so he had to carpool and take the bus which required a couple hours each way for his commute. He did it – he needed the money.

Trek 3900
Guest
Trek 3900

The state does not care HOW he gets to work; only that he does get there.
I agree with the state in this case.