As businesses start to reopen, some employees are asking if they must return to work. Many of these questions are being posed to employment attorneys. A group of them has decided to share some of the most common questions (and their answers) to help others who are being called back to their jobs.
Here are just a few of the inquiries:
“Do I have to go back if my employer asks me to return to work?”
Even though you might be worried about your safety during the pandemic, that’s not a legal reason for not returning to work. If your employer offers your job back to you or schedules you to work again, turning it down will likely hurt you. You run the double-risk of losing both your career and your unemployment benefits.
“I’m making more on unemployment, should I find a job?”
Many people are making more money because they are receiving an extra $600 each week from the government as part of the CARES Act. But that payment, due to the pandemic, is scheduled to stop by the end of July.
“I have a family member who is immunocompromised or has a health issue. Can I stay at home instead of going back to work?”
The CARES Act protects people who have a child with health issues or who cannot find childcare by allowing them to take 12 weeks off without pay and not risk losing their job.
If you have a health issue, you would probably be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), so your job should be kept open. But if you have a parent or other family member, with whom you live, who is compromised, your job may be in jeopardy depending on what your employer decides.
“Must my employer inform me if a coworker is diagnosed with COVID-19?”
While it isn’t clear that it’s a requirement, there could become a liability issue if a worker is diagnosed with the virus and the other employees are not informed. You could have legal grounds against your employer for not keeping you safe. One thing is sure: employers may not reveal the name of the person who has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
“My employer received a PPP loan and can pay us again. Does that affect my unemployment benefits?”
As a general rule, if you choose not to return to your job after you get a callback, you will no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits. The unemployment benefits program was set up to help those without a job. So, if you are offered a job and decide not to take it, you would no longer qualify for benefits.
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