Will Californians Who Refuse Work Because of Coronavirus Still Get Unemployment Benefits?

The San Francisco Chronicle reported recently that people who decline work (their old job or a new one) may still be entitled to unemployment compensation, “according to new guidelines from the California Employment Development Department (EDD).”

Essentially, the California EDD guidelines state that workers generally must accept employment unless a job is “unsuitable.” What’s unsuitable during the pandemic is an open question.

  • Work that isn’t deemed essential could be deemed unsuitable.
  • Work of any kind may be unsuitable if the employee is 65 or older, has a chronic health condition, or has a weakened immune system.
  • Work may also be unsuitable if it pays significantly less than the worker’s prior job or the prevailing wage.

The Cares Act adds $600 a week to unemployment coverage between April and the end of July – which means some workers may make more due to unemployment that they did when they were working. A recent San Francisco Chamber Commerce indicated that small businesses are finding that workers who decline to return to work are doing so because of customer safety and social distance issues rather than because they’re making more money not working.

The EDD states that “An individual “would have good cause to refuse to return to work if the business does not provide an essential service and is not in one of the industries reopening now under the state’s Resilience Roadmap,” because the stay-at-home edict still applies to industries thar are non-essential or that have reopened.

Workers generally will not have good cause to turn down work if the employer allows you to telecommute from home.

The guidelines address other employee issues such as whether unemployment compensation is available for workers with children – if the schools are shut down.

“Workers who are temporarily unemployed due to COVID-19 and expected to return to work with their employer within a few weeks are not required to actively seek work each week. However, they must remain able, available, and ready to work during their unemployment for each week of benefits claimed and meet all other eligibility criteria.”

At the California Law Offices of Stephen A. Danz and Associates, we file employment discrimination lawsuits, wrongful termination claims, whistleblower claims, and represent employees in a range of employee rights issues. To discuss your employee rights concerns, call us at 877-789-9707 or use our online contact form to make an appointment. Se habla espanol.