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Right to return transportation: Alaska law provides seasonal remedy.

Most companies in Alaska have jobs that require unique and specialized skill sets. This often extends the talent search and eventual hiring to regions outside the geographical area.

Imagine that during one such talent search you discover an ideal candidate to fill a difficult niche. This candidate is both willing and able to relocate to Alaska. It's a dream come true. During your employment negotiation you wholeheartedly agree to pay the employee's relocation expenses including the relocation costs for the spouse, children, dog and the ubiquitous family possessions.

What else did you bargain for?

Alaska Statute 23.10.380 says you may have the responsibility to pay the return transportation costs of the hired employee under specified circumstances. It can happen years later because no time limit is specified. Furthermore, AS 23.10.390 adds that section 23.10.380 is to be, "considered a part of every contract of hire involving transportation of an employee to and from this state or from one part of the state to another."

So, regardless of whether this was factored into the mutual employment agreement, it is there. That said, what happens if the economic picture changes or the employer/employee relationship goes south?

AS 23.10.380 says, in part:

(a) An employer who furnishes, finances, agrees to furnish or finance, or in any way provides transportation for a person from the place of hire to a point inside or outside the state to employ the person with return transportation to the place of hire from which transportation was furnished or financed, or to a destination agreed upon by the parties, with transportation to be furnished or financed


(1) On or after the termination of employment for a cause considered good and sufficient by the department (State Department of Labor), beyond the control of the person, or on or after the termination of the contract of employment or a renewal of the contract; and

(2) Upon the request of the person or the department made within 45 days after the termination of employment ..."

Seasonal Remedy

This stated purpose of the statutory scheme says it was enacted to provide a remedy for seasonal employees who might otherwise be stranded at remote job sites to become a burden upon the economic resources of the state. This makes sense. It is certainly not in the state's interest to have ex-employees stranded here because they don't have the funds to return home. The burden is placed on the companies that brought them here.

Although apparently enacted primarily with the seasonal employee in mind, the language of the statute does not limit its application to "seasonal" workers. It has been applied to include a professional engineer, laid off by a firm for economic reasons, five years after his date of hire [Vail v. Coffman Engineers Inc., 778 P.2d 211 (1989)]--but (and it's a big but), there is a limitation. The employer is only statutorily obligated to pay for the return travel of the employee.

Richard Birdsall, B.A., J.D. is a senior consultant for The Growth Company, and uses his broad experience conducting training in legal compliance, investigation, risk assessment, team building, mediation and alternative dispute resolution.
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Title Annotation:HR Matters
Comment:Right to return transportation: Alaska law provides seasonal remedy.(HR Matters)
Author:Birdsall, Richard
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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