Businesses install safety measures, but what happens to unemployment if you don't feel safe working?

State says employers need to communicate plans
Posted at 6:15 PM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 20:45:39-04

DENVER -- The owner of a Denver nail salon says her friend had a lightbulb moment when she was grocery shopping at Target and saw the plexiglass dividers in the checkout lanes. That friend called Maureen MacArthur, owner of File-N-Style, and offered to make similar dividers for her manicure stations.

"That’s why we’ve taken these extra measures, to try and make sure that the clients are safe, (that) the employees are safe," said MacArthur.

She sent pictures of the dividers to her employees in hopes that it would ease some of their fears about returning to work. As part of her plan to reopen, customers will be required to wait in their cars until their appointment and their temperature will be taken at the door.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) said it's important for business owners to take this time for workforce planning and to provide employees with information about those plans.

"If you’re healthy and there’s job offers and you’re ready to go to work, you need to do that," said Joe Barela, Executive Director for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Barela understands that some employees may have fear or anxiety about returning to work. He said unemployment benefits could be in jeopardy if an employee refuses to return to work, but there will be an exception for individuals who feel unsafe and provide what he calls "good cause."

"There are certain vulnerable populations, unsafe work conditions, childcare unavailability because of school closures – those are all reasons that give you some protections under the CARES Act for unemployment insurance," said Barela.

He explains the wording employees should use when they are asked to provide certification for ongoing unemployment benefits.

“I was given a job offer but for this reason I’m choosing not to go back," said Barela.

The safer-at-home order also directs the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to issue temporary rules to extend paid sick leave for up to two-thirds pay for 14 days if a worker tests positive for the novel coronavirus, has symptoms or has been directed to quarantine or isolate themselves due to COVID-19.

It also directs the CDLE to issue temporary rules and guidance to be sure workers – particularly in the vulnerable population – will not lose their eligibility for unemployment insurance if they refuse to return to work and can demonstrate their working conditions aren’t safe. Additional information is available on the CDLE website.