State DOL: Refusal to return to work means loss of unemployment benefits

KELOLAND.com Original
KELO Unemployment

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Back to normal means back to work for some South Dakotans as the state follows Gov. Kristi Noem’s direction and several cities loosen restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

But what if an unemployed person who has been laid off is called back to work doesn’t return?

The person won’t qualify for unemployment, South Dakota Department of Labor officials said today.

“In order to qualify for benefits, you must be able and available to accept full-time work. UI benefits are temporary financial assistance to eligible unemployed workers who lost their job through no fault of their own,” said Dawn Dovre of the S.D. DOL. “Laid-off workers must return to work if called back by their employer. Businesses should report employees who refuse to return to work without good reason or who quit their jobs to RAFraud@state.sd.us as soon as possible. We are also just completing a form for this purpose and will have it posted to our website soon, probably yet today.”

South Dakota’s DOL secretary Marcia Hultman reminded the unemployed in a news release that if they were laid off and were called back to work but refused to return, they would not qualify for unemployment.

Other state officials around the country, including Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, have made similar announcements as those states reduced some business restrictions related to the pandemic.

Roughly 30,000 South Dakota residents have filed new claims for unemployment since the pandemic hit the state. Continued claims were at about 22,000 for those who remain on unemployment.

While COVID-19 has created historic levels of unemployment claims in the state, the requirement to return to work if called back after a layoff or accepting full-time work isn’t a new one.

But the CARES Act does have specific language to address fraud. Dovre said there are serious consequences for fraud “fines, confinement and an inability to receive future unemployment benefits until all fraudulent claims and fines have been repaid. Individuals are responsible for paying back benefits deemed as overpayments due to ineligibility,” Dovre said.

Iowa’s DOL website has an announcement related to unemployed employees not returning to work: ATTENTION EMPLOYERS: If you have offered work to employees and your employee refuses to return to work, you must notify Iowa Workforce Development here:  https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/job-offer-decline-form-employers .

But what if the worker doesn’t feel safe returning to work or taking an appropriate full-time job?

“We encourage the worker and employer to work together to determine the best way to return to the workplace safely and continue to practice CDC guidelines. Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has standards and directives regarding COVID-19 exposure,” Dovre said.

Workers who don’t feel safe at work can file complaints with OSHA at https://www.osha.gov/workers/file_complaint.html

Some of the unemployed who may be returning to work include employees at the Smithfield meat packing plant in Sioux Falls, which is set to open on Thursday.

Several cities are also loosening restrictions on bars and restaurants, which will impact food service workers.

Both food service and meat packing industries are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. For food service, the hit has been in a decline in sales and an increase in unemployed workers. For meat packing, it’s been a high number of COVID-19 cases and furloughed or stoppages in work.

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