With the reopening of Ohio’s economy under the new restart plan, employers and business groups are raising concerns over the impact of continued unemployment compensation benefits and the additional weekly boost of $600.00 from the federal government for recipients.
Normally, unemployment benefits can be denied or terminated if an offer of work is refused without just cause. This includes the obvious situation where an employee quits his or her job. Under the current situation with COVID-19, some employers are alleging that employees may want to continue to receive unemployment benefits and either quit or refuse to return to work after receiving a job offer, claiming safety concerns arising from COVID-19. In order to address these concerns, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has created a form that can be found online for employers to report employees who quit or refuse to return to work specifically because of COVID-19. Employers can sign onto the ODJFS website to complete the form. Therefore, if an employee quits or refuses an offer of work due to an unsubstantiated safety concern or because of false allegations of COVID-19 exposure, there will be an opportunity for an employer to defend or challenge that claim.
Currently, there is no basis to challenge an unemployment claim if the employee indicates that they have lost their job due to COVID-19. There is no ongoing obligation at this time to search for work either.
To take advantage of the new defense, it is important that employers maintain a detailed workplace safety plan and document any job offers made to employees that have been placed on furlough or who have been laid off due to COVID-19. With the growing number of people unemployed at this time, businesses are hopeful that when they begin to reopen and establish new opportunities for employment, there will be plenty of job applicants available.
Over the past seven weeks 1,118,569 Ohioans have filed initial jobless claims.
As an added note, more than half of all US counties have not had a single COVID-19 death. Just two states, New York and New Jersey, account for nearly half of all US COVID-19 deaths as of May 4, 2020.