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Can Individuals Continue Unemployment Instead of Returning to Work?


Due to the coronavirus pandemic, unemployment claims have skyrocketed, with reports of over 36 million U.S. workers filing for benefits since the middle of March. Some of these workers were laid off permanently while others were furloughed, a term that suggests an employee may be able to return to their position when economic conditions improve. Current unemployment benefits have been boosted by an additional $600 each week for a limited period of time.

As stay-at-home orders are lifted, employees are being called back to work. Some of them are questioning if they need to go, particularly if they are still concerned about coronavirus exposure. And many are wondering if they decide not to go back, can they continue to receive unemployment benefits. A Columbus employment attorney can help answer your labor questions.

Issues with Returning to a Position

In most instances, whether a person is required to return to work depends on their unique considerations.

Some issues could include the following:

  • A worker is high risk due to age
  • Someone in the person’s home is high risk
  • The person has been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • An individual in the person’s home was diagnosed with COVID-19
  • There are no childcare possibilities making a return impossible

It may also be possible for an employee to turn down work yet continue to receive benefits if there have been extreme changes to the job duties or pay scale. How drastic the shift is will have an impact on the strength of the claim. For instance, if pay is cut by 50%, turning down the return to work might be a possibility. But if the shift is smaller, such as moving an employee to a different part of the workplace, the argument will not be as strong. Of course, there may be other terms and conditions for workers in union positions.

Employer Responsibility

There are guidelines for businesses reopening during this time of COVID-19. This could include adding hand-washing areas, providing protective equipment, social distance guidelines, or a combination of all of these safety precautions.

When employers are responsibly following the safety measures provided by local and federal guidelines, they may call their employees back. A worker is not able to turn down suitable work without cause. In addition, if an employee is earning more on unemployment than they were at work, they cannot choose the benefits because they prefer the increase in income.

If you have been called back to a position and have a reason to not return, your situation will need to be reviewed. There is a possibility you will be forgoing any job protection, depending on your situation. Different avenues for taking leave in the form of the Family and Medical Leave Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act may also help. A Columbus employment attorney can help employers make personnel decisions and help employees navigate their options when asked to return to work.

Has your employer called you back to work? A Columbus employment attorney can discuss what your options are if you feel it would be irresponsible to return to the office or manufacturing plant. Call 614-949-1181 for a free and confidential consultation.



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