Declining hours and unemployment
I was working (for the last 20 years) about 35 hours per week. When covid came along, I began working from home, less hours. I was able to get on unemployment due to the new arrangement of less hours, but now my work has me working about 5 hours per week. This has become an irritant. If I just turn in my resignation, will I still be able to claim unemployment in Colorado, or does that fall through at that point? #advice
When you follow your dreams you can achieve anything you set you mind to do! As we continue to deal with the unknown of this human world, why not focus on you? Are you allowing things to stand in your way? Over come the fears of what we can’t control and focus on the things we can control. This past week I was asked questions relating to these topics. Below is some of the articles I shared with them. I hope it can help you?
Can my employer fire me if I don’t return to the office?
Generally speaking, an employer can fire you if you refuse to come back to work. Most workers in the United States are employed “at will,” meaning that an employer can fire them for any reason that is not deemed illegal, explains James Brudney, a professor of labor and employment law at Fordham University School of Law in New York.
Being nervous about the coronavirus likely won’t be enough to legally protect you if you refuse to come back to work. Unless you have legal justification (or employer authorization), refusing to work will “constitute a resignation from employment,” says Sean Crotty, a labor and employment lawyer in Detroit.
Several federal laws may provide workers with that legal justification:
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) grants workers the right to refuse to work if they believe workplace conditions could cause them serious imminent harm, Crotty says.
Employers must comply with the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause, which requires employers to guarantee their employees a workplace “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” (States can also have their own OSH Act-approved workplace safety plans, which might have higher standards.)
But it may be tough to make a coronavirus-related case via the OSH Act.
“I would caution that [the General Duty Clause] is a very high standard,” Crotty says. “It will be particularly hard to meet if the employer is practicing social distancing and hygiene guidelines at the workplace.” Just saying that your employer isn’t doing enough likely won’t be enough to grant you protection, he adds.
If you think your workplace is unsafe because of the coronavirus, and you have concrete, specific examples, you can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The OSH Act also includes an anti-retaliatory clause, meaning you can’t be fired or demoted for asserting your right to a safe workplace — though a worker must file that claim within 30 days of any alleged retaliation, Bill Hommel, a labor and employment lawyer in Tyler, Texas, explains.
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
For employees in the private sector, if you and another worker feel your workplace is unsafe, and you both decide to not go into work for that reason, you’re protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) as essentially going on “strike for health and safety reasons,” says Ruben Garcia, a professor of labor and employment law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Law. You would both be legally engaging in what’s known as “concerted activity,” and the NLRA prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who are exercising their “concerted activity protections,” Garcia says. Your employer can hire someone to permanently replace you, but they legally can’t fire you.
“The NLRA, it’s about bargaining; about [making] changes at the workplace,” Garcia says.
If you are fired for walking off a job because you feel unsafe, you can go to your local chapter of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and file a charge against your employer, Garcia explains. This law generally applies to all private sector employees regardless of whether they’re in a union. But some employees, including agricultural workers and domestic workers, are exempt.
However, as with an OSH Act complaint, your reasoning for feeling unsafe at work needs to be more specific than just general concern about COVID-19.
If you feel your workplace is particularly dangerous, you could possibly also be protected under the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). Kenneth G. Dau-Schmidt, a professor of labor and employment law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, tells TIME that the LMRA states that if an employee walks off the job “because of abnormally dangerous conditions,” they’re protected from being fired. Importantly, unlike under the NLRA, workers who do this are not considered on strike, meaning their employer can’t hire someone else to permanently replace them. Dau-Schmidt cautions, however, that “abnormally dangerous” is a very high standard.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The recently-passed Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was intended to prop up the U.S. economy during the pandemic, includes some new or expanded worker protections that last through Dec 31, 2020.
If you work in the private sector for an employer with less than 500 employees, and have COVID-19, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been quarantined by a doctor or the government, you can take two full weeks of paid sick leave at your regular pay rate, subject to certain caps. And if you qualify for this paid leave, employers can’t make you come into the office during that time. (The FFCRA also includes two weeks of paid sick leave at two thirds’ pay to employees unable to work (or telework) because they are caring for for someone who has been quarantined.)
If I feel my workplace is unsafe, can I quit and collect unemployment benefits?
The federal CARES Act expanded unemployment benefits to people who might not have qualified in the past, such as gig workers (like Uber drivers) and people who are part-time employees or self-employed. It also granted Americans an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits and mandated that people on unemployment receive an additional $600 a week. (However, that extra money will end after July 31.)
Otherwise, unemployment regulations vary from state to state, experts tell TIME. Generally speaking, unemployment laws mandate that you can’t get unemployment if you quit, unless you have “good cause” for doing so, Crotty says. But “an unsafe working condition is a potential basis for claiming good cause,” he adds.
Among other factors, the state unemployment agency would consider the conditions under which you quit, whether you had raised any concerns to your employer, and whether the employer did anything to assess (or address) whether you actually were under “unsafe work conditions,” Crotty says.
Chapman adds that if an employee is in a high-risk category, “the unemployment agency may deem the act of quitting to be reasonable based on the unique circumstances,” although it would be a “case-by-case determination.”
If you plan on quitting because you think your workplace is unsafe, Major suggests that you first advocate your position to your employer, documenting your request and their response as evidence. But even copious notes of these interactions is no guarantee of qualifying for unemployment. “There’s always a possibility that they’re going to say, ‘we don’t think that that was unsafe.’ And so you voluntarily left and you’re not eligible for benefits,’” she says.
“Overall, quitting is risky for the employee when it comes to unemployment,” Crotty says. The employee “may ultimately prevail and show they had good cause, but there may be a delay in getting benefits while the issue is determined.” Furthermore, unemployment agencies are so backed up with claims right now that it might take a while before they “really dig in and start making determinations about eligibility,” he adds.
Changes in Life!
As we continue through this pandemic what changes are you making to Better Yourself? Each Morning I am thankful for another day on this Human Life. I try to lead by example, stay positive, and pay it forward. The best part of the morning for me is waking up and listening to the birds sing. #life #advice #mythoughts #coronavirus
Like many, I lost one of my three jobs due to Covid-19. This was my only full time job(12+yrs) that helped pay the rent for me & my family. My two part time jobs is not making ends meet. Am I applicable to receive partial unemployment from the job I lost?
High risk for COVID
My doctor has told me I’m at high risk and should not go back to my regular job. She wants me to get something online. I’ve been trying for months with no success. What should I do? I don’t want to end up homeless, that would really put me at high risk. #advice
I am 17 and am trying to become a motivational speaker. I have had a lot of experience in life and would like to help other teens like me. I want to help support and be there for them. I am looking for a job that I can work from home. I am out of highschool so I want a job where teen and or kids a can call and have someone to talk to when they feel like they are having a hard time or not being heard. Please help me find a job like this or even start something to help joins and teen that have also been abused or just have a hard life. #texas #advice