Employees Who Refuse to Return Now Risk Losing UI Benefits

Smart Summary

  • The $600 federal CARES Act “unemployment bonus” has caused many workers to decline offers to return to work.
  • Governor DeWine has ordered that most who decline such offers from employers will now risk losing their UI benefits.
  • Exceptions are made for those who are medically high-risk, 65+, personally in quarantine, caring for infected family members, or who can provide evidence that an employer is perpetrating related safety violations.

On June 16, 2020, Governor DeWine signed an executive order that affects unemployment eligibility for the hundreds of thousands Ohioans who remain off work. As of June 13th, approximately 520,000 employees were still collecting unemployment, which has been a somewhat attractive option for many in light of the CARES Act’s $600 per week “bonus.” With this flat-rate sum added to all unemployment payments, individuals making roughly $55,000 to $65,000 may make the same or more while not working, depending on their eligibility and dependency status. This has put many employers in a conundrum with able-bodied workers declining offers to return to work.

Recognizing this problem, DeWine authored new guidance whereby those who refuse re-employment offers may lose their unemployment benefits unless they have “good cause” for doing so. The governor has defined that having “good cause” applies to those who are:

  1. considered “high risk” by a qualified medical professional, where telework is unavailable;
  2. 65 or older;
  3. subject to a doctor’s quarantine order due to potential exposure;
  4. caring for family members who have COVID-19 or who are subject to a doctor’s quarantine order; and
  5. able to provide tangible evidence of a health or safety violation perpetrated by their employer, such that they cannot safely work.

In addition to other state and federal laws, the order allows those with qualifying needs to remain off work without sacrificing an income. Those without such needs, however, are encouraged to return to work or risk losing their benefits.

According to ODJFS, employers that need to report COVID-19 work refusals and/or eligibility issues should email [email protected].

Danielle Crane is an employment lawyer with Kegler Brown, advising Ohio employers on their comprehensive human capital strategies. She can be reached at [email protected] or (614) 462-5444.