TEXAS -- Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott Monday announced that beginning Friday, May 1, businesses including restaurants, retailers, movie theaters and malls will be permitted to reopen so long as their occupancy is capped at 25 percent.
- Many businesses allowed to reopen in limited capacity beginning May 1
- Employees who choose to stay away will likely lose unemployment benefits
While this may be seen as welcome news to many, it does present a quandary for some workers. Getting back to work and earning a paycheck again is certainly ideal, but it undoubtedly comes with an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, even if social distancing measures are maintained. However, in rural Texas counties, this is likely less of a concern.
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No one should have to choose between personal safety and a paycheck, but reality is choosing not to return to work over coronavirus concerns will likely cost you your unemployment benefits.
There may be some instances in which an employee chooses to stay away from work and retains unemployment benefits, but the process would be difficult. According to the Texas Workforce Commission’s website, there are instances in which a person can be separated from an employer and still obtain benefits:
If your employer ended your employment but you were not laid off, TWC considers it a firing. In addition, if an employer demands your resignation, it is considered a firing.
The TWC does say that you could be eligible for benefits if you were fired for reasons other than misconduct. However, among the listed reasons a person would be deemed ineligible for benefits is failure to perform work adequately, and failing to show up for work would almost certainly fall under that category.
According to the TWC, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit under very specific circumstances. Those circumstances include unsafe working conditions, a significant change in hiring agreement and not getting paid or difficulty getting your agreed-upon pay.
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While unsafe working conditions sounds like it could apply to business operation during an ongoing pandemic, the TWC says you would need to present evidence that you tried to correct work-related problems before you quit. In the case of a restaurant, for instance, that might entail contacting OSHA. If a restaurant were practicing sufficient social distancing and hygiene measures, you would likely not have a case.
The bottom line is refusing to return to work will almost certainly cost you unemployment benefits, which will leave many people with a difficult decision to make.