Workers Choose to Commute Rather Than Be Unemployed

Aug 21, 2014 | WC & Other Laws

More than 11,000 residents of Colorado commute to 42 other different states every day for their jobs. And though commuting more than 50 miles a day for work still seems a more viable option than moving to another state – or worse, being unemployed – the setup poses disadvantages beyond wasted effort and time on a daily basis.

About 11,213 Coloradoans commute every day to their jobs outside the state of Colorado, based on a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau at the start of the month. The data show that aside from those commuting from Colorado to other states, there are also some 19,074 residents from outside the state who commute every day to Colorado for work. The largest group is from Wyoming which composes 1,918 of Colorado’s out-of-state workers. There are also those smaller in number but come from farther states like the 1,275 from California and 989 from Florida.

All these workers, based on the report, comprised an estimated 5.28 million workers who commute out of state for their jobs. That’s 3.8 percent of the total workforce, whom the report dubbed as “mega-commuters”. These mega-commuters, including those of Colorado’s, have to travel as much as 59 minutes one-way to get to work, some even lasting more than an hour. This is more than double the nationwide average of a worker’s commute at 25.5 minutes back in 2011.

What happens if you are injured on the job – but you work outside the state?  The answer – frustratingly – is “It depends.”  Typically you are covered under workers’ compensation of the state in which you were hired.  So if you were hired in Colorado – but are sent out of state – then your benefits are governed by Colorado Law.  However… if your job takes you out of Colorado for six months or longer – then your benefits may be covered in the State in which you were injured.  As always – it is a complicated matter for which you must have an attorney.

Not only does mega-commuting take a large toll on a worker’s time and effort, different studies show that out-of-state work also poses economic and social tradeoffs in the long run.

Daniel Clarke of ABC News reported earlier this month on how mega-commuting hits the wallet- hard. A mega-commuter may not feel it on a daily basis, but he would’ve spent almost two thousand dollars on the gas cost by the end of the year. Based on the Federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average fuel economy on the street is 23.5 miles per gallon. Multiply by 50 miles for a one-way drive of a mega-commuter and you have $155 more per month on gas. That’s a $1,860 gas cost every year. This does not take into account the fluctuation of gas prices every year.

A doctoral dissertation done two years ago by social geographer Erika Sandow at the Umea University in Sweden highlighted the impact of long-distance commute for work on a worker’s relationship. Sandow did not disregard the financial and career benefits of out-of-state work such as larger paycheck and job advancement, but she concluded that there is an increase in the likelihood for a marriage to screw up when an out-of-state commute is involved. Her research, based on a study of about two million Swedes, shows that a commute that is longer than 19 miles increases the worker’s tendency to get a divorce by 40 percent, especially if the commuting worker is a male.

A good-paying job with promising career advancement outside the state is a more viable option than a low-paying job in-state. But workers need not have to choose between the two. Workers must have the option for a reasonable paying job that does not require him great personal, economic, and social costs.

If you or someone you know needs assistance with claiming reasonable workers’ compensation, please know that Kaplan Morrell, Colorado Workers’ Compensation attorneys can help you. Call us today at 303.780.7329. We have been helping workers from Colorado since 1997.