Ohio has paid out more than $1.7 billion to over a half a million jobless Ohioans in the last seven weeks. But there another section of the state’s unemployment website that’s starting to get attention: a page where employers who are reopening can report workers who they say refuse to go back.
The page is labeled as “report COVID-19 employee fraud.” It's a form by which employers can document when an employee quits or refused to come back to work.
Employers have to fill out whether the job is the same as it was pre-COVID-19, and whether the business maintains "the safety standards that are required by the Ohio Governor's Office."
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services director Kimberly Hall said while that's labeled as a COVID-19 issue, this is part of a longstanding process.
“We’ve always had at ODJFS a policy around how we handle when individuals who are receiving unemployment benefits turn down a viable offer for work, so this is not a new policy or approach," Hall said.
Hall said fear of contracting the coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to refuse work.
“That would not be sufficient," Hall said. "The analysis would need to be that your work environment, the conditions there are such that you’re at risk from a health and safety standard.”
Hall said employees can appeal. And workers who think their employers aren’t following the state’s COVID-19 rules can also report them to their local health department, which the Ohio Department of Health's website links to.
The state is also still working on its system to pay 1099, self-employed workers and independent contractors. Hall said 185,000 people have pre-registered to set up their accounts, so they'll be ready when the system is up and running. But since that system is still being built, that's not expected until mid-May.
What questions do you have about Ohio's coronavirus response? Submit your question below as part of WOSU's Curious Cbus series.