Employers have reported 3,336 Alabamians to the state for refusing to return to work since January; about a third of those workers were taken off the unemployment rolls and the rest have lost benefits while they are under review. According to Tara Hutchinson, a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Labor, the volume of “refusal to work” cases currently being reviewed is unusually high – that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The federal CARES Act allows workers impacted by COVID-19 to hold on to unemployment under some circumstances.
Employees who have the disease OR are caring for someone with COVID-19, can’t lose their unemployment benefits. Also, caring for a child whose school is closed – or dealing with the COVID-19 death of a primary breadwinner are exceptions laid out by the federal legislation. However those who simply “feel unsafe” returning to the workplace are not protected.
After the department is notified of a “refusal to work” situation by an employer, it contacts both the employer and employee to learn details and to determine whether to end benefits.
The state has so far denied benefits to 909 workers who opted not to return – and stopped benefits to review 2,317 more cases.