Workers getting called back to work have questions about COVID-19 and safety

Local News

FILE – In this March 18, 2020 file photo, visitors to the Department of Labor are turned away at the door by personnel due to closures over coronavirus concerns. The coronavirus pandemic has already hurt many households financially.  Americans have been hit with layoffs, furloughs and reduced hours across the country. Those who have not are still facing massive economic uncertainty. Experts say it’s more important than ever to manage your budget, reach out to lenders and seek protections available to those hit by the economic impact of the virus. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As Central New York moves through Phase Three of the state’s reopening plan, more people are getting called to return to the jobs they had before the pandemic hit the region.

But some of those being asked to return have contacted LocalSYR.com with questions about their options if they or a family member have a health issue or child care issue. We reached out to the New York State Labor Department for clarification.

First, you should know federal law says if you are collecting unemployment, you cannot turn down a job because of a general fear of COVID-19 or a dislike of the job. However, you may continue to receive benefits under certain conditions.

Deanna Cohen, a state labor department spokesperson, said, “New York has public health guidance in place to ensure people are not working in generally unsafe conditions, and our unemployment system has guardrails in place to ensure those collecting unemployment benefits are doing so because of lack of work — but if someone has specific health concerns or another PUA eligible barrier to work, they will likely be eligible for continued benefits.”

Examples provided by the New York State Department of Labor include:

  • You CAN turn down a job because of a specific COVID-19 related health issue — for example, if someone had been told by her doctor she is immuno-compromised and to self-quarantine, she would qualify for PUA.
  • You CAN turn down a job because of other non-health COVID-19 scenarios and qualify for unemployment benefits — i.e. if you are a child’s primary caretaker and they are unable to attend school or other childcare options because of COVID-19. 
  • These New Yorkers will still be able to collect unemployment if they have a valid COVID related reason to stay home and should continue to certify weekly as they have been.

The labor department has more information on its website.

Labor officials say if you feel your workplace is not safe or not complying with guidelines set down by the state you can file a complaint online.

The department also has a Returning Worker’s Bill of Rights.


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