As of today, here is what the Texas Workforce Commission has to say on this subject: Page link here. Please make sure to check the TWC site directly (rather than this blog), before making any important decisions on this subject. This situation continues to change and is valid as of the time of posting this blog.
An excerpt From the Texas Workforce Commission website as of May 15, 2020:
“When businesses start to reopen, if an employee doesn’t feel safe going back, and therefore remains unemployed, can they still draw unemployment benefits?
“Each UI benefits case is currently evaluated on an individual basis. However, because of the COVID-19 emergency, the following are reasons benefits would be granted if the individual refused suitable work.
“Reason for refusal:
- At High Risk – People 65 years or older are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 (Source DSHS website).
- Household member at high risk – People 65 years or older are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 (source DSHS website).
- Diagnosed with COVID – the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered.
- Family member with COVID – anybody in the household has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
- Quarantined – individual is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.
- Child care – Child’s school or daycare closed and no alternatives are available.
“Any other situation will be subject to a case by case review by the Texas Workforce Commission based on individual circumstances.” (end quotation from TWC website).
Commentary on the TWC information:
As the TWC website states, the evaluation is done on a case by case basis. Therefore, the TWC will question the reasons and circumstances of a person’s refusal to work.
If a worker is called back and doesn’t return due to a safety issue but wants to continue to draw unemployment, they will need to be able to explain why they believe they would be working in an unsafe condition where they are likely to become ill. They will need to explain whether or not their belief is reasonable. For instance, if there is information and evidence that the employer is ignoring state and local mandates and guidelines or agency recommendations it is important to state that evidence. The TWC officer will review all the information given and make a determination. So, an employee who doesn’t fit into one of the categories listed above and has just a generalized fear of the Covid-19 situation would be unlikely to continue to draw unemployment, based on the information given.
This situation continues to evolve and how it will affect all of us remains to be seen.
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