The Alabama Department of Labor said more than 100,000 people are collecting unemployment benefits after losing their job because of coronavirus.
The good news is when non-essential businesses open again, some of those people will get their jobs back.
But if an employee refuses to go back to work, they won’t continue to receive unemployment benefits. Those benefits currently include an extra $600 a month from the federal government for those out of work due to coronavirus.
Huntsville employment attorney Bo Emerson explained there are a few reasons you can refuse to return when businesses re-open after flattening the coronavirus curve.
“You need a positive test, or you’d need a positive determination that you’ve been exposed and in quarantine, or you need a medical excuse from a doctor that says you’re at high risk and the doctor is taking you off work until that risk has passed,” said Emerson.
If you don’t meet that criteria and don’t go back to work, you could be in trouble.
“You could be subject to being insubordinate, being terminated for failing to honor their request,” said Emerson.
If you get fired for refusing to come back to work during the pandemic you can’t get unemployment benefits.
“There could be a great enticement to stay out of work and receive those benefits but the employer gets to make that decision,” said Emerson. “The company ultimately has the right to set the terms and conditions of work.”
The Alabama Department of Labor knows the temptation. On Thursday, the department sent a press release. It says if you’re getting unemployment benefits, but your employer is ready for you to return and you don’t, it could be fraud.
Emerson said if you’re working remotely and don’t feel comfortable coming back to work yet the best option is to talk with your employer about safety measures in the office.
“If you’re successfully working remotely they may allow you to stay out but ultimately it will be the decision of the employer so if they want you to come back you’re going to have to come back,” said Emerson.
The Alabama Department of Labor created a new website for employers can report employees for not coming back to work. You can click here to check that out.