By Rob Gilmore & Lyndsay Ross

In a July 21, 2020 advisory letter, the Department of Labor (DOL) opined that an individual who refuses an offer of work due to legitimate COVID-19 health and safety concerns may still be eligible for benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

As a refresher, an individual qualifies for PUA benefits where they are ineligible for regular unemployment benefits and are unable or unavailable to work because of certain health or economic consequences of COVID-19. After noting that many states consider work to be unsuitable where it unreasonably exposes an individual to safety risks, the DOL applied similar logic to work offered to an individual receiving PUA benefits.

Specifically, the DOL listed three examples where an individual may continue to receive PUA benefits after refusing work:

  • An individual receiving PUA is offered and refuses work that would unreasonably expose them to COVID-19, in a state with a “suitable work” requirement, and the employee otherwise is eligible for benefits
  • An individual receiving PUA refuses work that the state considers suitable, but the individual refused the work due to one of the COVID-19 related reasons enumerated under the PUA provision of the CARES Act (e.g. the individual has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking treatment)
  • An individual receiving PUA refuses work that the state considers suitable, but refused the work for what the state considers “good cause,” provided that the individual remains unemployed, partly-employed or unable to work for a COVID-related reason

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed an executive order explaining what circumstances constitute “good cause” for refusing work during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio. To determine whether you may remain eligible for PUA benefits after refusing a job opportunity you fear may be unsafe, contact Rob Gilmore ( / 216.736.7240) Lyndsay Ross ( / 216.736.7201) or any of our Labor & Employment attorneys.