Mary Teresa NORMAN, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. CALIFORNIA UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE APPEALS BOARD, Defendant and Appellant, CALIFORNIA EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT, Real Party in Interest.
Defendant and appellant California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board appeals from the judgment of the Santa Clara County Superior Court granting the petition for peremptory writ of mandate filed by plaintiff and respondent Mary Teresa Norman and setting aside the decision of appellant denying respondent unemployment compensation benefits. Appellant contends on appeal that good cause for voluntarily leaving employment pursuant to section 1256 of the California Unemployment Insurance Code does not exist when an individual quits his or her job to join or accompany a loved one in another location (where the loved one has found employment) if the loved one is not a spouse.
Respondent began working for Mohawk Data Sciences Corp. on January 4, 1979, as a software control coordinator. At the time respondent was living with her fiance and had been for some two years. Respondent and her fiance planned to be married in June of 1980. At the end of June in 1979, respondent's fiance, a carpenter, moved to the state of Washington because of an employment opportunity. Respondent's fiance decided he wanted to remain in Washington and asked respondent to join him. Respondent testified that her fiance's decision and request presented her with a dilemma: “It kind of put me on the spot, either come up here and live with him up here in Washington or to break up.”
Respondent discussed her dilemma with some of the other employees at Mohawk Data Sciences, who informed her there were companies in Washington where she might find employment. Respondent contacted these companies and was informed that they did not have an opening for her at the time. However, respondent felt she would be able to secure employment in Washington without too much difficulty.
On August 13, 1979, respondent submitted her letter of resignation to Mohawk Data Sciences Corp. Respondent's last working day at Mohawk was September 7, 1979. Respondent's sole reason for leaving her job at Mohawk was to join her fiance in Washington.
Following her relocation, respondent filed a claim for unemployment compensation benefits. On October 4, 1979, respondent was notified by the California Employment Development Department that she was not eligible to receive benefits. Respondent appealed the determination of the Employment Development Department. After an administrative hearing, the administrative law judge issued a decision affirming the determination of the Employment Development Department in which he stated: “The facts of this case indicate that the claimant's sole motivation for leaving her employment was to join her fiance in Washington. Clearly, if the claimant had been married to her fiance at that time, or if she moved to Washington in order to be married upon her arrival, the Board precedents would provide that this constitutes good cause for leaving employment. However, there is no authority for holding that, absent an existing or imminent marital relationship, good cause exists for leaving employment to join a boyfriend, fiance or cohabitee. Accordingly, it cannot be held that the claimant had good cause for leaving her employment and the undersigned is constrained to find that she is disqualified under Section 1256 of the Code.”
Respondent appealed the decision of the administrative law judge to appellant. Appellant in its decision affirming the decision of the administrative law judge stated: “In her appeal the claimant contends that her relationship with her boy friend differs from a marriage relationship only insofar as there is no license and there was no marriage ceremony. Otherwise, they share all their worldly goods and earnings and provide each other with emotional support. The claimant argues that to deny her unemployment insurance benefits because she quit her job to move to another state with her boy friend discriminates against her solely because of the relationship.” However, appellant reasoned “the Appeals Board in the past has recognized ‘․ the well-established public policy in favor of the maintenance of the marital relationship and against any hindrance thereto․’ [Citation]. Thus, when a spouse quits a job to move at the behest of the other spouse, a finding of good cause for quitting the job is merely a recognition of, and an accommodation of, the broad social policy quoted above. If that policy is to be changed, the legislature is the body to enunciate the change as being reflective of the will of the people.”
Thereafter respondent filed her petition for writ of mandate pursuant to section 1094.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure. The trial court concluded: “The underlying facts in the record establish that the petitioner did voluntarily quit with good cause as it is interpreted under California Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256.” The trial court also stated in its conclusions of law: “Where good cause otherwise exists for an individual to voluntarily quit [his or her] job to follow another person to a location further than reasonable commuting distance from that individual's place of employment, the absence of a marital relationship does not, as a matter of law, preclude award of employment insurance benefits.” Thereafter a judgment was entered issuing a peremptory writ of mandate compelling appellant to set aside its decision denying respondent unemployment compensation benefits.
Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256 provides in pertinent part: “An individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits if the director finds that he left his most recent work voluntarily without good cause or that he has been discharged for misconduct connected with his most recent work.” Appellant recognizes that the “Appeals Board has ruled that in certain cases, an employee's voluntary leaving a job to join a spouse is ‘good cause’ for quitting.” Appellant reasons that these rulings give “effect to a demonstrable public policy in favor of preserving the institution of marriage.” Appellant's position on appeal may be stated in the following manner: if two individuals are not married, no matter what kind of arrangement or agreement the individuals have made nor what the individuals' future plans are in regard to marriage, and one of the individuals voluntarily leaves a job to join the other, the former should and can be denied unemployment compensation benefits. In other words, good cause may exist for an employee to voluntarily leave a job to join a spouse, but good cause does not exist (as a matter of law) for an employee to voluntarily leave a job to join a loved one who is not his or her spouse.
“At the outset, it seems appropriate to point out that the Unemployment Insurance Act is a remedial statute and the provisions as to benefits must be liberally construed for the purpose of accomplishing its objects.” (Carlsen v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 64 Cal.App.3d 577, 584, 134 Cal.Rptr. 581.) In section 100 of the Unemployment Insurance Code the Legislature declared the public policy underlying section 1256 of the Unemployment Insurance Code as follows: “The Legislature therefore declares that in its considered judgment the public good and the general welfare of the citizens of the State require the enactment of this measure under the police power of the State, for the compulsory setting aside of funds to be used for a system of unemployment insurance providing benefits for persons unemployed through no fault of their own, and to reduce involuntary unemployment and the suffering caused thereby to a minimum.”
The issue before this court is whether under the facts of this case, it can be said that respondent left her job with Mohawk Data Sciences Corp. with good cause. Appellant states “there is no disagreement between the parties as to any questions of fact.” The determination whether undisputed facts constitute a voluntary termination with or without good cause, “as defined by Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256, is a conclusion of law which is subject to judicial review.” (Prescod v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 57 Cal.App.3d 29, 38, 127 Cal.Rptr. 540.) But in reviewing this conclusion of law it must be remembered that “ ‘ “[g]ood cause” cannot be determined in the abstract any more than can any other legal conclusion. It can be determined only in relation to a set of facts.’ ” (Zorrero v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 434, 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.)
Very broadly, “good cause” means a legally sufficient ground or reason for a certain action. “ ‘In general “good cause” as used in an unemployment compensation statute, means such a cause as justified an employee's voluntarily leaving the ranks of the employed and joining the ranks of the unemployed; the quitting must be for such a cause as would reasonably motivate in a similar situation the average able-bodied and qualified worker to give up his or her employment with its certain wage rewards in order to enter the ranks of the compensated unemployed.’ ” (Zorrero v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., supra, 47 Cal.App.3d at p. 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.) It is well settled that the phrase “good cause” was intended to include some causes for termination which are due to the employee's personal circumstances and the cause need not necessarily arise out of or be attributable to the employment itself. (Prescod v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., supra, 57 Cal.App.3d at p. 40, 127 Cal.Rptr. 540; Zorrero v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., supra, 47 Cal.App.3d at p. 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.) The cause, in order to be classified as good cause, must “ ‘[comport] with the purposes of the Unemployment Insurance Code and with other laws.’ ” (Prescod v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., supra, 57 Cal.App.3d at p. 40, 127 Cal.Rptr. 540.) An employee's personal circumstances have been regarded as good cause for voluntarily terminating employment, when the circumstances could be regarded as “compelling,” “serious,” “imperative,” or “exigent.” (Evenson v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 1005, 1016, 133 Cal.Rptr. 488.)
As noted above, appellant recognizes that in certain circumstances, an employee's voluntary leaving a job to join a spouse can be regarded as good cause for the termination of employment. However, appellant contends that “married couples and persons living in a close and intimate and sexual relationship” receive different treatment in many areas of the law and may be treated differently in the area of unemployment compensation benefits. Appellant states that “[m]arriage is the legislatively prescribed method by which a purely personal relationship is transformed into a legally recognized relationship, one which entails certain legal rights and responsibilities.” Appellant discusses several of the legal rights and responsibilities that attach to the marital relationship: (1) a surviving spouse has certain defined and fixed rights of inheritance; (2) a spouse may not be forced to testify against his or her spouse (Evid.Code, §§ 970, 980–987); (3) married couples can file joint tax returns; and (4) a married person is required by law to support his or her spouse (Civ.Code, § 242). Appellant also notes that California has established conciliation courts. (Code Civ.Proc., §§ 1730–1772.) Appellant states that the laws that concern the institution of marriage are “all in furtherance of the public policy to foster the marriage relationship, to protect it, to make it a permanent and public institution, to encourage the parties to live together and to prevent separation.” Appellant reasons that given the public policy to foster and promote the institution of marriage, it may distinguish between married couples and persons living in a close and intimate relationship in determining eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits. In support of its position appellant states: “The participants here have chosen not to subject themselves to the legal obligations involved in marriage. In essence, they are here seeking the legal benefits of marriage but they decline to accept its burdens.”
Both parties to the instant appeal discuss at some length the decision of the California Supreme Court in Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106. In Marvin, the California Supreme Court held that express or implied contracts between persons living in a nonmarital relationship should be enforced by the courts, except to the extent that the contracts are explicitly founded on the consideration of sexual services. Appellant contends that Marvin does not stand for the proposition that “unmarried persons enjoy the same rights as those who have formally and legally accepted the responsibilities of marriage.” Appellant argues that People v. Delph (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 411, 156 Cal.Rptr. 422, and Drew v. Drake (1980) 110 Cal.App.3d 555, 168 Cal.Rptr. 65, demonstrate that the courts have not interpreted Marvin in such a manner.
In Delph, a criminal case, the defendant attempted to assert the marital communication privilege to prevent a woman he had been living with from testifying against him. The court in Delph held the marital privilege did not extend to unmarried cohabitants. (People v. Delph, supra, 94 Cal.App.3d at pp. 415–416, 156 Cal.Rptr. 422.) The court in Delph relied upon the fact that the statutes in question use the term “spouse” to identify the parties to the privilege. (Ibid.) However, this case does not question the right of the Legislature to specifically limit certain rights or obligations to married individuals. The Legislature has not attempted to set out the specific personal circumstances of an employee which will constitute good cause for voluntarily leaving his or her job. That is, there is no statutory language distinguishing between employees who are married and employees who are involved in a close relationship in regard to eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits. This case concerns the policy of appellant to deny benefits to employees who voluntarily leave a job to join loved ones (who are not the employees' spouses) and the application of that policy to the facts of this case.
In Drew v. Drake, supra, 110 Cal.App.3d 555, 168 Cal.Rptr. 65, the plaintiff brought an action for emotional distress suffered when she witnessed the killing of her “ ‘de facto spouse.’ ” The trial court sustained a demurrer to the complaint and entered a judgment dismissing the action. The court in Drew affirmed the judgment noting, “[e]motional distress to a spouse [citation] or a parent [citation] witnessing an injury to spouse or child meets the Dillon [Dillon v. Legg (1968) 68 Cal.2d 728, 69 Cal.Rptr. 72, 441 P.2d 912] test because it is reasonably foreseeable that a person standing in such close relationship to the injured person may be present and suffer intense distress.” (Id., 110 Cal.App.3d at p. 557, 168 Cal.Rptr. 65.) The court held that the trial court properly sustained the demurrer stating “[h]ere, in contrast, there was no family relationship and there was no allegation that respondents knew or should have foreseen any other kind of relationship between appellant and the victim of the accident.” (Id., 110 Cal.App.3d at p. 558, 168 Cal.Rptr. 65.) Accordingly, Drew turns upon the foreseeability requirement of a negligence action. However, eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits does not turn upon foreseeability.
Although Drew and Delph demonstrate that unmarried persons do not have all the same rights as those who have been legally married, these two cases do not resolve the issue before the court in the instant case. The case of Department of Industrial Relations v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 72, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183, is more relevant to the issue in the instant case. One of the issues before the court in Department of Industrial Relations v. Workers Comp. Appeals Bd. was whether Jeremy was a lawful dependent of the deceased worker within the meaning of Labor Code section 3503 which provides in pertinent part: “No person is a dependent of any deceased employee unless in good faith a member of the family or household of the employee, ․” Jeremy and the decedent were living together as husband and wife, although not legally married, and it was understood between the decedent and Jeremy that as soon as it was legally possible they would become husband and wife. The Workers' Compensation Appeals Board found that Jeremy was a member of the deceased worker's household and his partial dependent. (Id., at pp. 74–75, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183.) The state argued in Department of Industrial Relations v. Workers Comp. Appeals Bd. “that a person in such a relationship as Jeremy bore to the deceased worker may not, as a matter of law, be deemed to have been a ‘good faith’ member of his household, as required by section 3503.” (Id., at p. 76, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183.) The court noted that prior to the decision of the California Supreme Court in Marvin v. Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d 660, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106, the rule in California was that “[b]ecause of the woman's meretricious relationship with the worker she was, as a matter of law, not a ‘good faith’ member of his household and was denied workers' compensation benefits upon his employment-related death.” (Department of Industrial Relations v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd., supra, 94 Cal.App.3d at p. 77, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183.) The court in Department of Industrial Relations v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. held that it was time to abandon that rule stating: “We are of the opinion that the holding of Marvin v. Marvin and the repeal of Penal Code section 269a [which had criminally proscribed living ‘in a state of cohabitation and adultery’] have, by clear implication, repudiated the policy, and the rule and rationale, upon which the State here relies. Jeremy will accordingly be deemed to have been a member in ‘good faith’ of the deceased worker's household, and thus his dependent within the meaning of Labor Code section 3503.” (Id., 94 Cal.App.3d at p. 78, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183.) The court recognized that the “factual and legal context” of Marvin “differed somewhat from that before us,” but that “certain policy considerations there announced must reasonably be deemed applicable here.” (Id., at p. 77, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183.)
The policy considerations announced in Marvin are also applicable to the instant case. In Marvin, the court stated: “The mores of the society have indeed changed so radically in regard to cohabitation that we cannot impose a standard based on alleged moral considerations that have apparently been so widely abandoned by so many.” (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d 660, 684, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) Allowing respondent to receive unemployment compensation benefits is not in derogation of the “well-established public policy to foster and promote the institution of marriage ․” (Id., at p. 683, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) At the time respondent left her job to join her fiance, they had set a wedding date. Respondent testified that in her opinion if she did not move to Washington, her relationship with her fiance would have terminated. The fact that respondent and her fiance were living together does not detract from this public policy. “We are aware that many young couples live together without the solemnization of marriage, in order to make sure that they can successfully later undertake marriage. This trial period, preliminary to marriage, serves as some assurance that the marriage will not subsequently end in dissolution to the harm of both parties.” (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, at p. 683, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) Accordingly, allowing respondent to receive unemployment compensation benefits may also tend to “foster and promote the institution of marriage ․”
We conclude under the fact situation of this case that respondent left her job with good cause. We offer no opinion on whether good cause would have existed if respondent and her fiance had not contemplated marriage. “ ‘ “Good cause” cannot be determined in the abstract any more than can any other legal conclusion. It can be determined only in relation to a set of facts.’ ” (Zorrero v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd., supra, 47 Cal.App.3d 434, 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.)
Appellant also contends that respondent's relationship with her fiance was not “jeopardized or imperiled by his move to Washington.” Appellant suggests that respondent “could have kept her job and seen her friend on weekends and holidays and vacations.” This factual issue was resolved against appellant in the proceedings below. (Rowe v. Hansen (1974) 41 Cal.App.3d 512, 518–519, 116 Cal.Rptr. 16; Warriner v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 353, 358, 108 Cal.Rptr. 153.)
Given our above conclusion, it is unnecessary to discuss respondent's contention that “imposition of a marital requirement on claimants who claim that they quit for good cause for domestic reasons violates the rights of privacy and freedom of association of these individuals.”
The judgment is affirmed.
I concur but feel compelled to make the following observations: I agree with the dissent that the status and recognition to be afforded to relationships such as Ms. Norman's is for the Legislature. However, I cannot agree that the Legislature had done so at the time here pertinent, or in the manner outlined by the dissent.
Unlike the dissent, I do not find any controlling relevance in the 1979 amendments to sections 1030 and 1032 of the Unemployment Insurance Code, on which the dissent relies. (Dis. Opn. at p. 718 of 182 Cal.Rptr., p. –––– of ––– P.2d) As these amendments (Stats.1979, ch. 521, §§ 2 and 3) did not become effective until January 1, 1980, and were not retroactive, they have no application to Ms. Norman who left her job in September 1979.
Further, I find in various legislative enactments in effect in 1979 a view that appears to recognize contemporary reality as noted by the majority in Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106. In 1975, the criminal sanctions for cohabitation (Penal Code, §§ 269a and 269b) were repealed. (Stats.1975, ch. 71, §§ 5 and 6.) The same year, former Health and Safety Code section 35720, (repealed Stats.1980, ch. 992 section 8 and reenacted as Government Code section 12955, subd. (a); Stats.1980, ch. 992, § 4) a part of public housing law was amended to prohibit discrimination based on marital status (Stats.1975, ch. 1189, § 3, p. 2943), and Civil Code section 7002 added (Stats.1975, ch. 1244, § 11) to extend equally the parent and child relationship “regardless of the marital status of the parents.”
The 1976 amendments to the state's Fair Employment Law specifically recognize, as a civil right, the opportunity of all “persons to seek, obtain and hold employment without discrimination ․ on account of ․ marital status, ․” (Stats.1976, ch. 1195, amending former Labor Code sections 1411, 1412 et seq.1 (Emphasis added.) The 1976 Legislature also repealed former section 1264 of the Unemployment Insurance Code which had been held unconstitutional as it discriminated against claimants who quit jobs for domestic reasons. (Boren v. Dept. of Employment Dev. (1976) 59 Cal.App.3d 250, 259, 130 Cal.Rptr. 683.)
The Legislature did not add “marital status” to Unemployment Insurance Code section 1256.2 which provided that unlawful discrimination in other respects constitutes “good cause.” This section of the Unemployment Insurance Code enacted in 1975 (Stats.1975, ch. 715) has been viewed as declaratory of existing rather than new law. (Hildebrand v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1977) 19 Cal.3d 765, 772, 140 Cal.Rptr. 151, 566 P.2d 1297.)
In the absence of express statutory language, distinguishing for purposes of unemployment insurance benefits between employees who are married and employees who are not, we should not attempt to impose “a standard based on alleged moral considerations that have apparently been so widely abandoned by so many.” (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 684, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) Our Supreme Court made the above observation in Marvin in 1976 in the light of 1970 census figures which indicated that eight times as many couples were then cohabitating as had been doing so in 1960. (Marvin, supra, at p. 665, fn. 1, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) Recently, our Supreme Court observed that the number of unmarried couples tripled between 1970 and 1980—rising from 523,000 to 1,560,000. (In re Cummings (1982) 30 Cal.3d 870, 876, fn.3, 180 Cal.Rptr. 826, 640 P.2d 1101.) 2
The dissent also overlooks some of the reasons given in Marvin, as: The beneficial long-run effect on the institution of marriage of trial periods (Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 683, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106) and the many reasons couples have for choosing to live together informally. (Marvin, supra, at pp. 675–676, fn. 11, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) Particularly relevant to a polycultural state like California is one's scholar's observation that the increased recognition of informal marriage has come about in part because the marriage laws are serving a broader clientele and have adapted to the needs and marriage practices of the poor, of migrant populations and of racial and ethnic minorities, groups previously neglected or ignored by the private law. (Mary Ann Glendon, Modern Marriage Law and Its Underlying Assumptions: The New Marriage and the New Property, XIII Family Law Quarterly, No. 4, Winter 1980, pp. 443–444.) This fact was recognized in Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at pp. 675–676, fn. 11, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106. The legal order can exist only to the extent that social conduct is oriented to it. Law that is too divergent from social reality undermines the respect for and the rule of law.
All that section 1256 requires is “an adequate cause ․ that comports with the purposes of the Unemployment Insurance Code and with other laws.” The purpose of the Unemployment Insurance Laws is to relieve the burden caused by unemployment (Unempl. Ins. Code, § 100), namely, to act as a buffer against the ravages of sudden and unexpected loss of one's livelihood. (Zorrero v. Unempl. Ins. Appeals Bd. (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 434, 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.) These ravages are experienced as directly by a de facto spouse as by a legal spouse. No longer can “two live as cheaply as one.” As this court (Division Two) recognized in Prescod v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 57 Cal.App.3d 29, 40, 127 Cal.Rptr. 540, the purposes of the unemployment act was not purely economic but also remedial.
The fundamental reason for the liberal construction of the unemployed insurance laws, is a recognition that these benefits are the principal, if not the only, source of income for a substantial segment of the community. The aim of the benefits is to preserve self-sufficiency and allow the individual to be a member of a community. In theory, they represent part of the individual's rightful share in the commonwealth. (Reich, The New Property (1964) 73 Yale L.J. 733, 734, 785–786.)
I dissent. My colleagues have selected language out of Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106, based upon which they suggest that nonmarital relationships are not only approved in our society but that we judges must do all we can to encourage such relationships. They propose that we aid these unions by granting unemployment benefits, paid for by employers, to nonmarital partners who voluntarily quit their jobs to follow their friends.
Justice White, quoting Marvin, states: “ ‘We are aware that many young couples live together without the solemnization of marriage, in order to make sure that they can successfully later undertake marriage. This trial period, preliminary to marriage, serves as some assurance that the marriage will not subsequently end in dissolution to the harm of both parties.’ (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, at p. 683, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.)” From that quote Justice White analogizes: “Accordingly, allowing respondent to receive unemployment compensation benefits may also tend to ‘foster and promote the institution of marriage ․’ ” The logic escapes me. One wonders what other subsidy Justice White would approve to “foster and promote the institution of marriage.”
In short the majority would have us believe that Marvin holds that nonmarital relationships are to be encouraged as a matter of public policy. I cannot agree. The majority's reliance on the language of Marvin is simply misplaced. Marvin is a breach of contract case. It recognizes that because of the increase in nonmarital, living-together unions which have spawned legal controversies when one partner dies or the couple separates, implied as well as express agreements for the division of their accumulated property will be enforced by the courts. (Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 665, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) However, nothing in Marvin supports the conclusion that Mary Norman's voluntary departure from her job to join her fiance in another state entitles her to unemployment insurance benefits.
The Legislature's declaration of policy in Unemployment Insurance Code section 100 1 states in part that the unemployment insurance system is to provide “benefits for persons unemployed through no fault of their own, and to reduce involuntary unemployment and the suffering caused thereby to a minimum.” (Emphasis added.) The unemployment compensation system is designed to “act as a buffer or hedge against the ravages of sudden and unexpected loss of one's livelihood.” (Zorrero v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1975) 47 Cal.App.3d 434, 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.) “․ [T]he fundamental purpose of unemployment insurance is to cushion the impact of such impersonal industrial blights as seasonal, cyclical and technological idleness, and thus to provide benefits to workers coming within the provisions of the act for unemployment not occasioned with their consent or brought about by their fault.” (Jones v. California Emp. Stab. Com. (1953) 120 Cal.App.2d 770, 777, 262 P.2d 91.)
Nevertheless, not every employee who leaves work voluntarily is denied benefits. Section 1256 provides in relevant part, “An individual is disqualified for unemployment compensation benefits if the director finds that he left his most recent work voluntarily without good cause ․” (Emphasis added.)
The Legislature did not define “good cause,” and the determination whether undisputed facts establish a voluntary leaving without good cause is a conclusion of law which is subject to judicial review. (Prescod v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 57 Cal.App.3d 29, 38, 127 Cal.Rptr. 540.) Good cause may exist for personal reasons, but those reasons must be so imperative and compelling as to make the voluntary leave-taking “involuntary” (Evenson v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 1005, 1016, 133 Cal.Rptr. 488), and must be based on “serious and exigent circumstances.” (Zorrero, supra, 47 Cal.App.3d 434, 439, 120 Cal.Rptr. 855.) In a given case, the question of good cause must first be decided by the Employment Development Department, which has adopted detailed regulations relevant to that determination. (Cal.Admin.Code, tit. 22, § 1256–1 et seq.; see Unemp.Ins.Code, §§ 305, 306.)
Regulation 1256–9 et seq. pertain to voluntary departures from work for personal domestic circumstances. Regulation 1256–12(b) provides in relevant part that a claimant leaves work with good cause if he or she has taken reasonable steps to preserve the employment relationship and “the claimant left work due to circumstances relating to the claimant's prospective or existing marital status of such a compelling nature as to require the claimant's presence, including any of the following: [¶] (1) The claimant's prospective marriage is imminent and involves a relocation to another area because the claimant's future spouse has established or intends to establish his or her home there, and it is impossible or impractical for the claimant to commute to work from the other area. [¶] (2) The claimant is required to leave his or her work to accompany his or her spouse to, or join his or her spouse at, another location because it is impossible or impractical for the claimant to commute to his or her work from the new location ․” The comments following the regulation state that the section reflects the state's policy in favor of the establishment and maintenance of the marital relationship. (See also In re Garlock (1969) Cal.Unemp.Ins.App.Bd. Precedent Benefit Dec. No. P–B–44 [claimant who leaves work to join husband transferred to another state by the military leaves for good cause].) Consistent with those regulations, in this case the board concluded that respondent's voluntary departure from her job to join her boyfriend or fiance was not for good cause within the meaning of section 1256.2 In effect, the board concluded that respondent's reason for leaving her job was not sufficiently compelling, and was inconsistent with the public policy underlying unemployment insurance—that unemployment benefits are to be reserved for persons unemployed through no fault of their own. (See Hildebrand v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1977) 19 Cal.3d 765, 770, 140 Cal.Rptr. 151, 566 P.2d 1297.)
Although acknowledging that the Legislature can limit certain rights and obligations to married individuals, the majority has rejected the board's conclusion. While the precise basis of its holding is unclear, the majority's opinion appears to rest on “policy considerations announced in Marvin ” (Marvin v. Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d 660, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106), and on its belief that this case involves only an administrative policy decision rather than a legislative directive.
As I have already indicated, the majority has seized upon dicta in Marvin to extend that case in a manner unwarranted by its holding. Marvin merely held that when a man and woman living together without marriage enter into a contract with respect to their earnings and property rights, as long as the agreement does not rest on illicit meretricious consideration, the courts will enforce such agreements. (Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 674, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.) Marvin did not generally invalidate laws limiting certain rights to married individuals. (See, id., at p. 684, fn. 24, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106), and courts have generally been reluctant to extend Marvin beyond its express holding.3 For example, the court in People v. Delph (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 411, 156 Cal.Rptr. 422 declined to apply Marvin to extend marital privileges under the Evidence Code to “co-habitants” who have established marriage-like relationships (id., at p. 415, 156 Cal.Rptr. 422), and commented that Marvin did not signal an elevation of the marriage-like relationship to the level of marriage for any and all purposes (id., at p. 416, 156 Cal.Rptr. 422).
The majority attempts to distinguish Delph on the ground that the Evidence Code expressly limits the marital privilege to “spouses,” while here the Legislature itself has made no distinction between married and unmarried persons with respect to eligibility for unemployment compensation. First, the majority's scorn for the board's determination as mere administrative policy is inconsistent with the respect that courts generally accord to administrative interpretations of a law, which are followed unless clearly erroneous. (Nipper v. California Auto. Assigned Risk Plan (1977) 19 Cal.3d 35, 45, 136 Cal.Rptr. 854, 560 P.2d 743.)
Even more important, the majority overlooks the unmistakable implications of the 1979 amendments to sections 1030 and 1032 of the Unemployment Insurance Code. (Stats.1979, ch. 521, §§ 2, 3, No. 4 Deering's Adv.Legis. Service, pp. 233–234.) As amended, section 1030 now provides in relevant part that an employer who has been notified of a former employee's claim for unemployment compensation is entitled to submit to the department facts disclosing “whether the claimant left such employer's employ to accompany his or her spouse to or join her or him at a place from which it is impractical to commute to such employment, to which a transfer of the claimant by the employer is not available, and at which the spouse has secured employment.” (Emphasis added.) Section 1032 now provides in relevant part that if it is ruled that the claimant left the employer's employ under the circumstances above described, benefits paid to such an employee shall not be charged to the account of the employer.
The significance of the amendments is apparent. Employers are required by law to make contributions to the Unemployment Fund. (§§ 976, 1521.) Employers may not deduct their contributions to the fund from the wages of their employees. (§ 976.) 4 The rate of the employer's contributions is based upon the ratio between its average base payroll and the net balance in its reserve account (§§ 977, 978.) Ordinarily, a decision awarding benefits to a claimant has the effect of depleting an employer's reserve account, and may thereby adversely affect his rate of contributions to the fund. (See Interstate Brands v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1980) 26 Cal.3d 770, 776, 781, 163 Cal.Rptr. 619, 608 P.2d 707.) However, benefits awarded but not charged against the employer's account are paid out of a “balancing account” (to which all employers also contribute), and do not affect the employer's reserve account.5 The amendments of sections 1030 and 1032, therefore, reflect a legislative policy decision that, while an employee should not be denied benefits if he or she leaves a job to follow a spouse, the individual employer should not be penalized as a result. The decision appears to be a legislative attempt to harmonize the policy underlying unemployment insurance with the strong public policy in favor of marriage. (See Marvin, supra, 18 Cal.3d at pp. 683–684, 134 Cal.Rptr. 815, 557 P.2d 106.)
The majority's opinion, however, is inconsistent with that legislative accommodation of competing policy considerations. Read in conjunction with sections 1030 and 1032, the obvious effect of the majority's decision is that an employer's rate of contribution will be adversely affected when an employee such as respondent voluntarily leaves work to join a fiance, but not when he or she leaves to join a spouse. Surely that anomalous result is not what the Legislature intended, and does not, as the majority claims, tend to “foster and promote the institution of marriage.” Although we must afford a liberal construction to the unemployment insurance code to effect all the relief that the Legislature intended to grant, we cannot exceed the limits of the statutory intent. (Perales v. Department of Human Resources Dev. (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 332, 337, 108 Cal.Rptr. 167.) The majority has exceeded that limit in this case.
I would conclude that respondent left her job voluntarily and without good cause within the meaning of section 1256 when she left her job to join her fiance. Such a conclusion is not a value judgment on respondent's nonmarital relationship. One may leave a job for reasons which are personally commendable, but which are not so compelling as to render the claimant eligible for unemployment benefits in the absence of explicit legislative authority. (Perales v. Department of Human Resources Dev., supra, 32 Cal.App.3d at p. 337, 108 Cal.Rptr. 167.) It is for the Legislature to determine whether relationships such as respondent's, because of their commonness in today's society or for other policy reasons, deserve the statutory protection afforded marriage. (People v. Delph, supra, 94 Cal.App.3d at p. 416, 156 Cal.Rptr. 422.)
Finally, the majority did not reach respondent's constitutional claims, but I do not find them persuasive. This is not a case where an applicant has been improperly denied benefits after being discharged because of constitutionally protected action. (Cf. Thornton v. Department of Human Resources Dev. (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 180, 182, 107 Cal.Rptr. 892; King v. California Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1972) 25 Cal.App.3d 199, 206, 101 Cal.Rptr. 660.) Moreover, while one's constitutional right of privacy may protect the right to live with whomever one wishes (see City of Santa Barbara v. Adamson (1980) 27 Cal.3d 123, 164 Cal.Rptr. 539, 610 P.2d 436), it does not follow that one is therefore constitutionally entitled to all the protections or privileges which the state affords married individuals. (See also In re Cummings (1982) 30 Cal.3d 870, 180 Cal.Rptr. 826, 640 P.2d 1101.) Respondent's argument, reduced to its essence and taken to its logical conclusion, is that those who live in “sexually intimate and financially interdependent” relationships should have all the rights of the legally married. The Legislature, not the court, is the appropriate forum for respondent's views.
The majority purports to limit its holding to the facts of this case, but in so doing, it fails to provide any guidelines for the department when it next determines whether one who voluntarily leaves a job to join a “loved one” has quit for good cause. Is the critical fact that respondent and her fiance “contemplated” marriage? If so, must a couple have set a wedding date, or is it enough if they are just considering marriage as a possibility? What about two people who plan marriage but do not live together? Or was the fact that respondent and her fiance had been living together of some significance? Was the intimacy or the duration of their relationship a factor? If so, does it matter that they were male and female, rather than a couple of the same sex? The majority does not say.6 By concluding that actual or imminent marriage was not a prerequisite to establishing good cause in this case, the majority has enlarged the concept of good cause beyond that which the Legislature intended, opened the door to an untold number of potential claimants, and left too many questions unanswered.
I would reverse the judgment.
1. In 1980, these former provisions of the Labor Code were repealed and then reenacted (with an addition not pertinent here, as Government Code sections 12920, 12921 et seq. (Stats.1980, ch. 992).
2. The Census Bureau as of March 1979, estimated that 2.7 million Americans cohabit, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Dept. of Commerce, Marital Status and Living Arrangements, March 1979, No. 349 (1980) cited in D. Meade, Consortium Rights of the Unmarried, Time for a Reappraisal, XV Family Law Quarterly, No. 3, Fall 1981, p. 224, fn. 6.
1. Unless otherwise indicated, all citations are to the Unemployment Insurance Code.
2. At oral argument, the parties agreed that at the time she left work, respondent's contemplated marriage was not “imminent” within the meaning of the regulations; furthermore, according to respondent's counsel, the couple has not married.
3. While the court in Department of Industrial Relations v. Workers' Comp. Appeals Bd. (1979) 94 Cal.App.3d 72, 156 Cal.Rptr. 183 did apply Marvin in a context other than property, the case is distinguishable from the instant case, and the majority's reliance on it misplaced. In that case, an unmarried man and woman were living together; when he was killed, she sought death benefits as a dependent of a deceased worker. Labor Code section 3503 provides in pertinent part that “No person is a dependent of any deceased employee unless in good faith a member of the family or household of the employee ․” The state argued that despite the evidence, the nature of the couple's relationship precluded her as a matter of law from being a “good faith” household member. The appellate court disagreed. Citing Marvin and the repeal of Penal Code section 269a, the court held in effect that the woman could not be denied benefits to which she was entitled as a member of the deceased's household simply because of the nature of their relationship. Here, however, respondent was not denied benefits to which she was otherwise entitled because of the nature of her relationship with her fiance.
4. Employees do contribute to the Unemployment Compensation Disability Fund. (§§ 984, 3004.)
5. Sections 1030 and 1032 also provide that benefits paid are not to be charged to an employer's reserve account if it is ruled that the claimant left the employer's employ voluntarily and without good cause, or was discharged by reason of misconduct connected with work, or was a student employed on a temporary basis whose employment began within, and ended with his or her leaving to return to school at the close of, a vacation period. (See also § 1032.5 [employer's reserve account liability for part-time employee].) Other sections generally provide that benefits paid erroneously or illegally or pursuant to a determination later reversed are not charged to an employer's reserve account. (§§ 1335, 1338, 1380; see also § 1027, subd. (b)(2).)
6. In fact, the majority's emphasis on the contemplated marriage distorts respondent's position. She argues that she was entitled to benefits because of her relationship regardless of whether she intended marriage, and at oral argument urged that a homosexual claimant who voluntarily leaves work to join his or her partner who has moved elsewhere should also be entitled to benefits.
WHITE, Presiding Justice.