Return to work order a win for Ohioans
Posted June 19, 2020 in Press Releases
Those with high risk of COVID-19 may refuse work, obtain unemployment compensation
Gov. Mike DeWine this week signed an executive order defining circumstances under which workers may refuse an offer to return to work and continue receiving unemployment compensation benefits. It includes those who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control, when they do not have the option of working from home. Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Poverty Law Center previously asked Governor DeWine allow unemployed Ohioans to refuse an offer to return to work and continue receiving benefits if they had real, justifiable reasons. Policy Matters and OPLC released the following statement on the order:
“We applaud Governor DeWine for recognizing that working people who are susceptible to COVID-19 should not be forced to go back to work and lose their unemployment benefits. This will help workers avoid making what is an impossible decision and preserve the health of many Ohioans.
“While we are glad to see these exceptions, the order does not cover those who must stay home because their child care is not available due to COVID-19 closures. The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services should ensure that those who lose regular unemployment benefits for that reason are made aware of and can easily apply for federal benefits to which they may be entitled. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance covers workers with a child they must care for, and is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“The order allows employees to receive UC benefits if they have ‘tangible evidence of a health and safety violation by the employer that does not allow the employee to practice social distancing, hygiene, and wearing protective equipment.’ While helpful, the order should provide stronger protection for employees in unsafe workplaces. It should cover violations of the governor’s existing employer safety requirements. And the term ‘tangible evidence’ is problematic. When the employee asserts a specific violation of the health and safety requirements, the burden should be on the employer to show that the workplace is safe.
"These remain concerns, but we are glad to see Governor DeWine taking this step to protect Ohio workers.”