Coronavirus

Is it possible to refuse to work and claim benefits in the US?

Many states like Texas started reopening the economy as of 1 May and most governors have been working on a four-phase plan to slowly lift stay-at-home orders.

Is it possible to refuse to work and claim benefits in the US?
VIRGINIE GOUBIER AFP

After being in a prolonged quarantine period many states are starting to reopen the economy and lift stay-at-home orders. The United States decided to shut down the economy in March to stop the Covid-19 virus from spreading and this caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs.

Many governors are working on a four-phase plan to slowly reopen the economy and have given the green light to businesses like restaurants, retail, hospitality, service and marketing industries to open up amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Employers have been calling their employees to explain how they plan to reopen to keep everyone safe. Even though the curve seems to be flattening in the United States, not everyone feels confident about returning to normal life prior to Covid-19.

The Washington Post and the University of Maryland ran a survey in which 67% of Americans said that they would feel uncomfortable going to a store and 78% said they would be uncomfortable dining in a restaurant.

Since shutting down the economy the United States suffered its biggest labor market shock on record last month, as government officials confirmed Covid-19 eliminated 20.5 million jobs. Also more than 33 million Americans have filed for unemployment since mid-March and are receiving an additional $600 weekly federal benefit until 31 July and state-administered aid for up to 39 weeks.

Some people have refused work during outbreak

According to the New York Times workers in more than half of US states are receiving more money in unemployment benefits than they did from their regular salaries and that is the primary reason they have refused work during the outbreak.

When a business reopens employers have to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to protect their employees and strict social distancing protocols are enforced.

Employers who follow federal, state and local safety measures can call employees back to their former jobs and workers cannot refuse suitable work and still receive any kind of unemployment benefits. If a worker is called back to their job and their employers follow all the guidelines, they can’t choose to remain unemployed simply because they receive more in benefits than they’d earn after returning to work.

The Department of Labor Employment and Training administration has made it very clear that a general fear of exposure to the virus is not enough to refuse work or quit your job.

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