COVID-19 and unemployment insurance: How to manage employees who decline to return to work


In response to COVID-19 and its economic consequences, the state and federal governments have expanded unemployment insurance funding and coverage. As a result, employers are facing previously uncommon questions, as more employees have sought and received benefits.

One of those questions, for example, arises when employers once again have a need for work previously performed by employees who were laid off due to COVID-19, or who perhaps were sent home so the employer’s facility could be sanitized. What happens when employers recall those employees to work, but they refuse to come back in order to keep receiving benefits?

Under standard unemployment insurance rules, when employees quit work or refuse an offer of work without good reason, they may become ineligible for benefits. Further, if the offer of work is refused in order to keep receiving unemployment benefits, the individual could be found to have committed fraud on the state unemployment insurance system.

Thus, unemployment insurance claimants must file each week to receive their benefits. When they do, they are asked if they refused an offer of work, such as an employer recalling them back into work when business operations resume. If they answer “yes,” the unemployment insurance staff will investigate to determine whether the refusal was with or without good cause.

However, employers that believe claimants refused the recall offer in order to keep obtaining benefits can take another step by submitting an “eligibility notice.” The eligibility notice provides additional information to the unemployment insurance staff to assist them in determining whether the employee remains eligible for benefits or if the refusal constituted fraud.

Employers can visit the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services website to file an eligibility notice. 

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