Should quitting work during pandemic for health reasons disqualify you from unemployment?

A blue Donate Life Ohio poster reads, "I'm alive because someone like you said yes!" above a photo of Loretta Davis posing for the camera wearing a beige sweater and a leopard-print top.
Posted at 10:24 AM, Jun 24, 2021

CINCINNATI — A lot of people lost their jobs when the pandemic hit, but what if you quit your job for health reasons? Should you be able to collect benefits then?

A Westwood woman who has spent much of her life advocating for others is now speaking up, hoping to help herself and others after spending almost a year stuck in the unemployment system.

Loretta Davis was seen on billboards across the Tri-State years ago encouraging people to donate their organs after she received a liver transplant.

"I was told that I had two days to live, and so just that is enough for me to give back," she told WCPO.

Loretta Davis, wearing a light blue denim vest over a white and gray dress, stands in front of a red billboard displaying her picture and text reading, "I'm alive... because someone said yes!"
Loretta Davis poses in front of an organ and tissue donation billboard in this undated photograph.

Davis also started “From Broken to Beautiful,” a support group for people recovering from trauma, pulling from her own childhood trauma of being raped and, at one point, living in foster care.

"I do it because it is who I am," Davis said. "It’s who God created me to be and not only that but because I know the need is there."

When the pandemic hit, though, Davis felt she had to quit her job working with women coming out of the prison system in order to protect her health as a person with a pre-existing condition.

"A liver transplant…that’s serious," Davis said.

The fact that she "quit" her job, she said, has kept her from receiving unemployment benefits from that job as well as a separate job from which she was laid off — all of it caught up in the appeals process with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Davis said she’s owed about $8,000 and that she lost her apartment and has had to move in with her daughter, unable to get her case moved forward even after numerous calls.

"I talked to them yesterday morning for the last time because I told them, I said, you know what, I’m not going to call you all back because you all are doing your job on this end because I’m getting repetition," she said. "I’m getting the same thing from each of you and I don’t blame you. I blame the people that is on the other side that are not doing what it is that they’re supposed to do."

Now vaccinated and once again gainfully employed, Davis considers it part of her job to advocate for others.

"Your health matters and you have to own it," Davis said. "Yes, I do need that money. I know that they owe me that money. But moreso because it’s more important now for me because I feel like my health is being overlooked, and I know that I am not the only one."

Ohio Job and Family Services does not comment on individual cases but has agreed to look into Davis’ claim.