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June 1, 2020

What Do Businesses Do If An Employee Refuses To Return To Work?

The U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means attempted to answer this question last week. Noting that each state ultimately is responsible for making eligibility decisions, the committee advised employers to check their state workforce website for specific information. The committee offered some sample guidance from states that is available here and here, however.

The guidance notes that states permit a number of valid reasons for turning down a job, but making more money from unemployment insurance (UI) is not one of them. If an employee turns down a job, but does not have a valid reason, he or she is not eligible for UI and could be committing fraud. Valid reasons for turning down employment include lack of access to childcare or the need to care for a loved one, even if an employee is allowed to work from home. Employees also can turn down work for some health reasons, but they cannot refuse to come back to a worksite because of general concerns about COVID-19.

If a business believes an employee is not coming back to work because he or she is earning more with UI, employers can start by contacting their state unemployment insurance fraud hotline. A list of those hotlines can be found here.

As a reminder, to receive COVID-19-related unemployment assistance, an employee must satisfy one of the following eligibility criteria:

  • They have a positive COVID-19 test or are experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnoses;
  • A member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • They are caring for a family or household diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • They are the primary caregiver of a child who is unable to attend a school or childcare closed because of COVID-19;
  • They are unable to reach the place of unemployment because of a quarantine due to the public health emergency; or
  • Their place of employment is closed due to COVID-19.