Getting Back to Work: A Guide for Employers and Employees


Getting Back to Work: A Guide for Employers and Employees

Frequently Asked Questions about Unemployment Insurance (UI) as the Economy Reopens

 May 29, 2020 - PRESS RELEASE

J.P. Freire
Jesse Solis

(202) 226-4774

 


The following are responses to common questions about expanded support for unemployed workers included in the CARES Act. States are ultimately responsible for making eligibility decisions based on individual circumstances. Employers and employees should check their state workforce website for specific information. There are three sections: Valid Reasons for Staying on Unemployment InsuranceReturning to Work, and Guidance for Employers.

You can view some of the state guidance by reading this FAQ on the website, or by downloading this PDF.

VALID REASONS FOR STAYING ON UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE

I was recently offered my job back after having been laid off due to the pandemic, but I make more money now on unemployment. Can I turn the job down and stay on unemployment?

No. States permit a number of valid reasons for turning down a job. But making more money on UI is not one of them. If you don’t take the job and don’t have a valid reason, you are not eligible for UI and could be at risk of committing fraud. States are required to collect overpayments made to individuals that improperly receive benefits.

I was offered my job back but my children’s day care center is still closed down due to the pandemic. Am I still eligible for UI if I turn down the job due to lack of child care?

Yes. You are eligible. The CARES Act provides protections for workers impacted by COVID-19 and in most states, lack of child care due to the pandemic is a valid reason to turn down a job if you are the primary caregiver.

My employer will let me work from home with pay. However, because my children are out of school and my spouse is working, I need to care for them and it is too difficult to work from home. I need my kids to be at school in order for me to be able to work. Am I eligible for UI until my kids get back to school?

Yes. You are eligible. As stated earlier, the CARES Act provides protections for workers impacted by COVID-19 and in most states, lack of child care due to the pandemic is a valid reason to turn down a job. But trying to find temporary child care and working from home, even part-time, may be the best option since there are no guarantees your job will still be available when your kids return to school.

I don’t want to return to work because I am worried about exposure to illness. Wouldn’t it be safer for me to remain on UI?

Your health and safety are very important, and that’s exactly why you should return to work—after all, most Americans receive health care insurance through their employer. Employers are already working to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace, and you should work with your employer directly about any concerns you have. Unwillingness to do so is not a valid reason to stay on UI.

RETURNING TO WORK

What can a claimant do if he or she believes a job offer is not for suitable employment?

Claimants may file an appeal if they disagree with a state’s determination regarding suitable work. If an employer raises an issue of failure to accept suitable employment, the state unemployment insurance agency must provide the claimant with an opportunity to provide his or her side of the story and to rebut any evidence provided to the state before making a final determination.

Most state laws allow for refusal of suitable employment for good cause, which is defined in state law. Criteria for good cause may include, but are not limited to, the degree of risk to an individual’s health, safety, the individual’s physical fitness, prior training, experience, and earnings; the length of unemployment and prospects for securing local work in a customary occupation; and the distance of the available work from the individual’s residence.

What happens if there is another outbreak and a family member or I get sick due to COVID-19? Do I have to quit my job and go on UI?

If you work for an employer with under 500 employees, your employer must give you paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks with pay to take care of yourself or a family member. There are some exceptions to this requirement for small businesses.

This new access to paid leave was provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The U.S. Department of Labor has provided a notice for employers to inform their employees about these benefits here: https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/posters/FFCRA_Poster_WH1422_Non-Federal.pdf 

If paid sick leave is not available through your employer, pandemic unemployment assistance is available to provide temporary income support for individuals impacted by COVID-19 who are unable to work. You are encouraged to talk to you employer about options, such as being furloughed, to keep your health insurance and not lose the connection to your job.

What happens I there is another outbreak this Fall and my kids’ school closes and I can’t go to work? Do I have to quit my job and go on UI?

Same as above. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provides access to paid sick and family and medical leave for reasons related to COVID-19 for employees who work at companies with less than 500 employees through the end of the year. 

GUIDANCE FOR EMPLOYERS

Many employers in my community say that employees are not coming back to work because they make more money on UI. What should I tell these employers?

First, you need to ask them if they have formally offered the employee a job. If not, they need to do that. Second, they need to report the names of the people that have been offered a job to their state unemployment office. Those who turn down a formal job offer from their previous employer without a valid reason (i.e., good cause) are no longer eligible for UI.

What can an employer do if it believes an unemployment insurance claimant has refused an offer of suitable employment?

Nearly all states have processes for employers to submit documentation that an offer of suitable employment was refused by an unemployment insurance claimant. A list of all state unemployment insurance fraud hotlines can be found at: https://www.dol.gov/general/maps/fraud. You can also report fraud, waste and abuse to the Department of Labor’s Office of the Inspector General

One of my workers quit because he said he would prefer to receive the unemployment compensation benefits under the CARES Act. Is he eligible for unemployment? If not, what can I do?

No. Individuals who quit their jobs to access higher benefits, and are untruthful in their UI application about their reason for quitting, could be at-risk of committing fraud.

Eligibility for regular unemployment compensation varies by state but generally does not include those who voluntarily leave employment. Similarly, to receive pandemic unemployment assistance, an individual must satisfy one of the eligibility criteria in the CARES Act. These include the following scenarios:

  • if the individual receives a positive COVID-19 test or is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnoses;
  • if a member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • the individual is caring for a family member or a member of the individual’s household diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • the individual is the primary caregiver of a child who is unable to attend a school or child care closed because of COVID-19,
  • the individual is unable to reach the place of unemployment because of a quarantine due to the public health emergency,
  • an individual’s place of employment is closed due to COVID-19.

How Different States Handle Job Refusal

Nearly all states have released guidance or FAQ’s reminding claimants that they may not refuse of offer of suitable work, often accompanied by a list of good cause exceptions for situations involving COVID-19, and have instructed employers to notify them if an employee refuses to return to work. 

You can view some of the state guidance by reading this FAQ on the website, or by downloading this PDF.

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