What is a Reasonable Geographic Area in a Labor Market Survey
When conducting a vocational assessment one important factor regarding vocational prognosis is where the person resides. Determining where the labor market research will take place is extremely important but just as important is clarifying the individual’s reasonable geographic area. In Louisiana, the courts have noted that the determination of what is reasonable depends on factors such as the nature of the employment region, whether the region is a city or a rural area, transportation requirements and availability to and from the job, as well as work history of the individual. Additionally, the economic impact of offered employment to the individual has been considered by the courts as to the reasonableness of a geographic area.
The type of claim and venue should be considered when determining a reasonable geographic area. For example, for longshore claims, The Department of Labor suggests "reasonable commuting distance" is a flexible term that will vary with local conditions. For rehabilitation counselors working longshore claims, the generally accepted distance for a worker to travel to a job from their home is up to 40-50 miles.
For cases involving state worker’s compensation claims, the reasonable commutable distance to a job is not as clear.
In Banks v. Industrial Roofing & Sheet Metal Works, Inc., the employer must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the employee is physically able to perform a certain job and that the job was offered to the employee or that the job was available to the employee in his area or the employer's community or reasonable geographic region.
In Daugherty v. Domino's Pizza, 95-1394 (La.5/21/96), it was ruled that light duty employment thirty miles from claimant's home was not reasonable due to his physical inability to drive more than a short distance from his home. Thus, it is crucial to consider if the injured worker is restricted physically from driving and what that limit is.
Joyner v. Davison Transport, Inc., (La.App.2d Cir.1/22/97) determined that an eighty-four-mile commute four days per week for a claimant who had no reliable transportation and complained of back pain was not within his reasonable geographic region.
Mayeux v. Kentucky Fried Chicken, 28,163 (La.App.2d Cir.4/3/96 held that jobs in Vicksburg were within the reasonable geographic region of an employee who lived in Tallulah, Louisiana, twenty miles away. Similarly, in Bankston v. Scaffolding Rental & Erection Services, Inc. (La.App. 1st Cir.1987), it was determined that jobs located approximately thirty miles from the claimant's residence, were within the reasonable geographic region because the claimant had previously worked in that area and was physically capable of commuting that distance.
So, what is reasonable when considering geographic area for employment of an injured worker depends on type of claim and venue, individual circumstances in the case, the injured worker’s travel to work prior to the indexed incident, limitations on traveling if any as a result of the injury, and the justification of the labor market area by the vocational expert.
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Larry S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Aaron Wolfson, Ph.D.
Lacy Sapp, MHS, CRC, LPC, LRC, CLCP
Todd Capielano, M.Ed., LRC, CRC, LPC, CLCP