This week the Department of Labor released a new set of frequently asked questions that helped ease concerns for many business owners with furloughed workers. As part of the CARES Act, Congress provided furloughed and laid-off workers an extra $600 per week on top of state unemployment benefits, for some workers this meant they could earn more in unemployment benefit than their normal salary. Many business owners worried that when it comes time to reopen, they might not be able to get workers to return, however DOL has announced that workers recalled from furlough will not qualify for unemployment without additional extenuating circumstances. DOL’s FAQ below:
Question: If an individual refuses to return to work when called back by the employer because he or she wanted to receive unemployment benefits, would he or she be eligible for PUA?
Answer: No. If the individual refused work in order to file for unemployment benefits, he or she is not unemployed, partially unemployed, or not able or not available to work for one of the COVID-19 related reasons listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I) of the CARES Act. Thus, the individual would not qualify for PUA.
Question: Is an individual who refuses an offer of work eligible for PUA?
Answer: No, unless the individual is unable to work as a direct result of COVID-19. Eligibility for PUA requires that the individual be able to work and available to work within the meaning of applicable state law, unless the individual is unable or unavailable to accept the offer of work because of a reason listed under section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I) of the CARES Act, he or she would not be eligible for PUA.
Question: If the jurisdiction’s stay at home order due to the COVID-19 emergency is lifted and an employer has called his or her employees back to work, is an individual who refuses to return to work due to a general fear of exposure to the coronavirus still eligible for PUA?
Answer: To qualify for PUA, the individual must be unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of a COVID-19 related reason listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I). An individual who does not go to work due to general concerns about exposure to COVID-19, and who does not meet any of the other COVID-19 related criteria for PUA, is not eligible for PUA because general concerns about exposure to COVID-19 is not one of the reasons listed in section 2102(a)(3)(A)(ii)(I).