Michigan’s unemployment insurance law permits employees who are receiving unemployment benefits to refuse “suitable work” only if the employee has “good cause.”
Under the new guidance, “good cause” is expanded to include specific COVID-19 reasons an employee may have for refusing to return to work.
Employees may have good cause to refuse an offer of suitable work in light of COVID-19 in the following situations:
- The individual is under self-isolation or self-quarantine in response to elevated risk from COVID-19 due to being immuno-compromised.
- Older adults over 65 years old.
- Those with specific disease or chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, chronic liver disease undergoing dialysis, severe obesity, diabetes, malnutrition, and certain genetic disorders.
- Those with specific medications or treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, dialysis, stem cell, bone marrow, or organ transplant.
- The individual or household member has displayed at least one of the principal symptoms of COVID-19, which include fever, atypical cough, and atypical shortness of breath – must have a positive test, COVID-19 diagnosis from a medical professional, or be seeking diagnosis.
- The individual has had contact in the last 14 days with someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
- The individual recovered from COVID-19 but it caused medical complications rendering the individual unable to perform essential job duties temporarily.
- The individual has a family care responsibility as a result of COVID-19 and does not have access to customary arrangement or a reasonable alternative.
- Childcare if the school is closed, or if summer childcare arrangements are closed due to a government directive or COVID-19.
- If individuals’ customary childcare is no longer available due to COVID-19, individuals must seek “reasonable” alternatives to childcare.
- If individuals cannot find “reasonable” alternatives to childcare, individuals may remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
- The individual is required to care for someone with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.
- The individual has a reasonable belief that the workplace is unsafe or not in compliance with state or federal safety guidance and law. If an employer claims that a workplace is “suitable” because it meets state and federal workplace safety requirements, the employee may still have “good cause” to refuse that work if the employee can establish he or she has a reasonable belief that the workplace does not meet safety requirements (until a determination is made that indicates otherwise).
- For employees receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the individual’s normally available transportation must be unavailable due to a quarantine related to COVID-19 only.
- Merely being afraid to return to work is not good cause.