As we are all aware, those currently receiving unemployment compensation are collecting an additional $600 weekly in benefits on top of their state’s weekly amount. These additional payments emanate from the COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation and will continue until July 31st. As a result, many recipients are collecting substantially more in unemployment benefits than wages if working.

But can a recipient now refuse to go back to work and continue to collect unemployment? Though somewhat state-specific, the general answer is ‘No.’ The CDC has issued sanitation guidelines on items employers must provide to employees. States have their own mandated workplace conditions such as percentage occupancy limits in restaurants. Assuming these compulsory governmental requirements are followed, an employee can’t refuse to go back to work and continue to collect unemployment. Similarly, there is no authorization for an employee to continue to collect unemployment simply because it’s more than their working wage.

Let’s look at it from the employer side. Must an employer bring back employees let go due to the pandemic? What if an employee has no childcare available? And what exactly are an employer’s responsibilities to provide a safe workplace? These areas are ripe for upcoming litigation. But more pressing for you, they’re applicable to your own workplace. Your clients will expect you to know these answers as well. So why not take our new course, Labor Law and the CARES Act: Navigating Employee/Employer Conflicts in Times of Economic Distress (NECT), so you are able to learn the nuances from our expert panel? Your clients will thank you, and your receivables should improve.

Nick Spoltore is VP of Tax & Advisory Content for Surgent CPE. Mr. Spoltore is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and of Delaware Law School. Before joining Surgent, he practiced tax and business law at the firm of Heaney, Kilcoyne in Pennsylvania and also in Delaware.

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