Gephardt: Workers Who Quit Over Coronavirus Fears Might Qualify For Unemployment

May 1, 2020, 12:45 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Some employees who are being called back to work are nervous it could expose them to the coronavirus.

Losing your job isn’t black and white. How and why an employee leaves can make a big difference. For example, if an employee had a good reason for quitting, they get unemployment.

Is being scared of catching the coronavirus a good reason? Maybe, said Utah Unemployment Division Director Kevin Burt.

Broadly speaking, if your boss is following all of the health guidelines to be open, you’re be expected to show up. If you don’t, don’t expect unemployment benefits.

“Just a general fear … it could disrupt the unemployment benefit,” Burt said.

But there could be good, tangible reasons. Is your boss refusing to make people wear masks? Is social distancing impossible? Are you a high-risk individual?

“Perhaps you’re in a vulnerable population. Perhaps you have a family member that’s in the vulnerable population. And some of that should absolutely be evaluated,” Burt said.

Thus far, Utah’s Department Workforce Services has received 20 reports of employees refusing to go back to work over COVID-19 fears. It’s too early to say how many claims there will be as businesses reopen, but after a turbulent few months, Burt says he’s eager to see the overall claims go down.

“We’re moving towards returning to work and so that’s promising for us to see,” he said.

It’s really important that the employer communicate directly to their employees that they are reopening, Burt says. The state has had “sticky” issues in the past where bosses send out an email or leave a voicemail and the employee didn’t get the message.

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Gephardt: Workers Who Quit Over Coronavirus Fears Might Qualify For Unemployment