Generally, no. Individuals receiving UI benefits, even those whose claims are COVID-19 related, must return to work when able to do so. The employer should document the work offered, including any changes regarding wages or hours of work, the date the offer was made, and the reason given for the refusal.
However, an employee may be able to show good cause for not returning to work, if the business is not complying with the Phase 1 Directive on Reopening as outlined in the Governor’s Directive of April 22 and any local public health orders. Further, if an employer is unable to make reasonable accommodations for an employee who is a vulnerable individual pursuant to the Directive on Reopening, the employee may be eligible for continuing benefits under regular UI, PEUC or the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.
The Directive describes “Vulnerable Individuals” as people over 65 years of age, people with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, or asthma, and people whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer or other conditions requiring such therapy.
Local public health officials have the authority to ensure the health and safety of the public. Employees can contact their local public health officials if they have questions, or if they believe their employer is violating social distancing directives. OSHA may also be able to provide guidance to workers. For more information, go to https://www.osha.gov.
Phase 1 Reopening Employer Guidelines
- Develop and implement appropriate policies, in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and guidance, and informed by industry best practices, regarding:
- Social distancing and protective equipment.
- Temperature checks and/or symptom screening.
- Testing, isolating, and contact tracing, in collaboration with public health authorities.
- Use and disinfection of common and high-traffic areas.
- Monitor workforce for indicative symptoms. Do not allow people with symptoms of COVID-19 to work.
- Collaborate with public health officials when implementing policies and procedures for workforce contact tracing following an employee’s COVID-19 positive test result.
Last updated 05/13/20