COLUMBUS— Yesterday, Governor DeWine announced the signing of executive order 2020-24D, which provided protections for unemployed Ohioans who are over 65 or considered “high risk” and asked to return to work by their prior employer. Where previously they would have been disqualified from receiving benefits for refusing an offer of suitable work, now these Ohioans will remain eligible for unemployment.
State Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) introduced the Worker Protection Act, HB 672, in late May to similarly protect at-risk workers from being forced to choose between going back to work in unsafe environments or losing their unemployment benefits. The bill had 35 Democratic co-sponsors.
“This is a bipartisan win for Ohio’s workers,” said Rep. Leland. “Protecting vulnerable Ohioans isn’t a partisan issue – it’s just the right thing to do. No one should have to choose between their life and their livelihood.”
Under the new order, you could continue to receive benefits if you meet one of the following:
- You have a medical professional’s recommendation that you not return to work because you fall into a category that is considered “high risk” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- You are 65 years or older;
- You have evidence of a health or safety violation by your employer, such as not practicing social distancing, wearing protective equipment or taking proper cleaning precautions. This evidence could be a finding from your local health department or photographs;
- You have been told to quarantine by a doctor or local health official for a set period of time because of exposure to COVID-19;
- You have to stay home to take care of a relative diagnosed with COVID-19.
“We were happy that Governor DeWine took into consideration some of the concerns important to Ohioans we addressed in HB 672, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to address future concerns during this pandemic,” said Rep. Sobecki.
Other states, including North Carolina, Colorado, and Texas, have specified that individuals at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will not be forced to choose between returning to a work environment where they could be exposed and losing access to their unemployment benefits.
In early May, the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) created a web portal for employers to report employees who did not return to work so that ODJFS could determine whether to deny any future unemployment claims they filed.