ODJFS form lets employers 'report employees who quit or refuse to work' during pandemic

Ohio unemployment benefits bill stalls out for rest of year
Posted at 7:51 AM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 11:00:34-04

As Ohio starts moving towards reopening, a new form on the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) website allows employers to notify the government when they think a person quits or refuses to work.

The form is called "Report COVID-19 Quits or Work Refusals when Work is Available." While some people might say they are nervous about returning to work for fears of contracting COVID-19 and contributing to the spread, ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall said that's not a valid reason.

"If you're just saying I'm afraid of the virus ... that would not be sufficient," Hall said.

However, Hall also said one of the reasons the ODJFS recognizes for filing unemployment is the health and safety of a worker.

"The analysis would need to be," Hall said, "that your work environment, the conditions there, are such that you're at risk, and from a health and safety standard."

If the work environment is unsafe, though, workers can report the workplace and their employer to the Ohio Department of Health.

If a worker reports an employer for an unsafe work environment and an employer reports a worker for refusing to return to work, a review process begins where both the worker and employer can present their side to the ODJFS, which will then make a ruling.

There is also a fear that workers won't return to work because the extra $600 in unemployment benefits they receive is more than their jobs pay. But those extra benefits will end soon, Hall said.

"We can't emphasize enough that that is a temporary payment," Hall said. "It ends in July, and you don't want to risk your, you know, continued employment for the sake of that benefit, which will end ... "

Childcare is also a central concern for some workers who have children. If childcare facilities aren't open, workers may not be able to return to work, since they have to watch their children, which could lead their employer reporting them to the ODJFS.

"We know that childcare is a is a necessary partner to any workforce," Hall said. "We expect to have information coming, and communication formally, from the governor's office on childcare this week."

In the meantime, Hall said, communication between employers and workers is key right now.

"I can't emphasize enough the communication process," Hall said. "Communication lines that need to stay open between employees and the employers ... ensuring that employers are making sure that employees know what they are doing to preserve and maintain a healthy, safe environment ..."