man thinking about employees refusing to return to work unemployment concerns

Can Employees Who Refuse to Return to Work Still Collect Unemployment?

Can employees who refuse to return to work still collect unemployment? Read on for more about unemployment rules for employees who refuse to return.

As the economy begins to slowly reopen in different states where non-essential businesses were shut down, some employees who are recalled to work may refuse to do so because current unemployment benefits are higher than what they might earn or they fear for their safety. The $600 federal supplement that many employees are now receiving (and may receive through July 31, 2020) as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), there are many employees who are temporarily getting unemployment benefits comparable to and, in some cases, greater than their usual wages.

When it comes to the situation involving actual employees who refuse to return to work, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued guidance on how such cases should be handled by state unemployment agencies:

If a worker refuses to return to work because they want to continue to collect state and federal unemployment benefits, then they are no longer eligible for the supplemental federal benefits, DOL says. To be eligible for supplemental unemployment benefits as the result of the CARES Act, workers must be unable to work as a direct result of defined, COVID-19 related reasons. These include situations where the employee or a member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or the worker is unable to reach the place of employment because of a COVID-19 quarantine.

Workers might also remain eligible if their employer is not following proper safety protocols, as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

People applying for unemployment must show they have sought “suitable employment,” but the executive order specifies that this does not include employment that might jeopardize people’s health. Eligibility in situations like those would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

When in doubt ask your HR Advisor! You can also check out the DOL Guidance here.

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