Coronavirus: If my job is putting me at risk, can I quit and get unemployment? Maybe

Employees who quit their jobs because of coronavirus concerns won’t qualify for expanded unemployment benefits unless they can prove the job was putting them at unnecessary risk.

Ohio Unemployment today started allowing people to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a temporary program created by the federal CARES Act to give unemployment aid to people who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment but lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

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State guidance lists one of the qualifying factors as “the individual has quit his/her job as a direct result of COVID-19.”

Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kimberly Hall said in an interview this week that provision would only apply in situations where the employer did not take proper steps to protect employees.

“That would require (the applicant) proving and establishing that they need to leave their employment because of some jeopardy to health and safety, so there’s a little bit more interaction involved when somebody tries to use that (reason) versus someone who is impacted because the business was ordered to temporarily close,” she said.

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If someone filed for unemployment under that provision, she said, the employer would have the opportunity to defend their practices. This is important because the unemployment insurance rate they pay is impacted when their employees go on unemployment.

“These are taxes the employer has paid out and it’s kind of impacting the employer rating experience later down the line,” she said. “There’s an impact there when you have individuals tapping in who aren’t entitled to that.”

If someone’s age or a pre-existing health condition put them at particular risk of returning to work, they can also talk to their doctor as another provision allows for unemployment for someone who can’t go to work because a health care professional advised him or her to stay home.

Coronavirus: Confused about unemployment? We answer your questions.

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