Employer Recourse for Essential Employees Not Returning to Work

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As businesses reopen, you may be calling back employees who were placed on a temporary layoff or furlough due to COVID-19. What do you do if you have employees who refuse to come to work? They may have concerns about getting COVID-19, have issues with childcare, or they may be making more money on unemployment.

Each state may differ in their policies on Unemployment Insurance. Check with your state department of labor to see if they have a policy on an employee’s refusal to return to work due to COVID-19. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means has put together a guide with common FAQs, Getting Back to Work: A Guide for Employers and Employees Frequently Asked Questions about Unemployment Insurance (UI) as the Economy Reopens. Please refer to the guide for the full FAQ. Below are their responses to two of the common questions we have received from Essentially Women members.

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.

The FAQ guide also provides a synopsis of how different states handle job refusal. If you have questions about your state’s policy, contact your state department or division of labor.

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