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Ben Asks a Question: If I feel unsafe at work and quit, can I receive unemployment?

Posted at 4:57 PM, Apr 15, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As millions of Americans begin to receive stimulus checks from the federal government, many Ohioans’ futures are still up in the air.

Today the question I asked Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration has to do with unemployment: What can essential workers do if they feel unsafe at their job? And can they expect to be eligible for unemployment if they choose to quit a job for their own safety?

Ben Asks a Question is a feature we started as a way to help give you a voice during Gov. Mike DeWine's daily press briefings. Since then, Ben has gotten hundreds of questions a day. If you'd like to ask a question, find us on Facebook and feel free to message us there, or send us an email at newsdesk@wcpo.com.

I directed the question to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who has been overseeing the DeWine administration’s handling of unemployment claims during the coronavirus pandemic. Husted first emphasized the need for businesses to make sure their workplace is safe, referring to the protocols listed in DeWine’s stay-at-home order.

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“There is a list of protocols that businesses must take to make sure that their workplace is safe,” Husted said. “And everybody who is operating should be operating under those circumstances. If an employer is not doing that, that employee should report them to the local health department, and they should enforce it.”

Husted said that when the protocols are properly followed, it’s unlikely for COVID-19 to spread from person to person.

“[Businesses] have successfully operated with these protocols in place, and not had a spread of the virus in the workplace,” Husted said. “So I would say to those folks, that your employer should be doing these things to make the workplace safe … Although every one of us can take additional measures by personally staying six feet away, by wearing a mask, by washing our hands, by not touching our face.”

Kimberly Hall, director at Ohio’s Department of Job and Family Services, was a part of Wednesday’s press briefing by phone. Hall added that while the department does have provisions for some cases of refusing to work, it’s likely that most Ohioans will not be eligible for unemployment if they were to quit their jobs.

“We do have a provision that allows for ‘good cause refusal’ and ‘good cause circumstances,’” Hall said. “But when you have an offer of employment, in most circumstances you would be rendered ineligible if you refused to return to work.”

Nearly 700,000 Ohioans have filed for unemployment since the outbreak of COVID-19.