Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Coronavirus Update 5-5-2020: Ohio encouraging employers to report AWOL employees to ODJFS

Last week I asked how employers could encourage employees to return to work when unemployment benefits pay them more than their jobs. One suggestion I offered was to hit employees with the stick of unemployment-benefit termination.

Employees who refuse return-to-work offers might be disqualified from collecting further unemployment benefits (unless their refusal is because of coronavirus), and you can advise employees that refuse a recall that you will be asking the state to terminate their benefits. 

Late last week, the State of Ohio provided a clear reminder to employers of the validity of this threat.

According to cleveland.com, “The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services has set up a webpage – and sent emails to employers Friday night – telling them to report workers who don’t return so they can get reevaluated and potentially lose unemployment benefits.” That email says in part:

Ohio law prohibits individuals from receiving unemployment benefits if they refuse to accept offers of suitable work, or quit work, without good cause. … 
If you have employees who refuse to return to work or quit work, it’s important that you let the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) know so we can make accurate eligibility determinations. 

Employers are then encouraged to visit https://secure.jfs.ohio.gov/covid-19-fraud/ to report their AWOL employees.

As for employees who refuse to return to work over safety concerns? ODJFS says that if a reasonable person would not feel safe returning to work to that employer, an AWOL employee still might qualify for benefits.

Non-essential businesses have begun to reopen in Ohio. Employers, you need to be 100 percent transparent about the steps you are taking and measures you are implementing to help keep your employees as safe as possible from contracting COVID-19 at work. Otherwise, you risk a mass exodus, and employees might opt for unemployment over the jobs you offer them.