Last week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine issued an “emergency declaration” expanding and clarifying eligibility for unemployment benefits during the current COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) pandemic.
Specifically, unemployment benefits are now available for eligible individuals who are requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of coronavirus, even if they are not actually diagnosed with coronavirus. In addition, the standard one-week waiting period for unemployed individuals seeking unemployment benefits is being waived for this situation.
If an employer discharges employees due to a loss of production caused by the coronavirus, employees will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits if the employees are otherwise eligible. Further, individuals receiving unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown will result in “mutualized” charges for contributory employers. This means that a given employer’s unemployment taxes will not increase based on that employer’s coronavirus-related discharge decisions, but instead any increase will be spread among all employers in the system. In addition, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will waive penalties for late reporting and payments during Ohio’s emergency declaration period.
Contributory employers are those employers who normally pay the federal tax used to cover the administrative costs of Ohio’s unemployment program. By contrast, reimbursing employers – generally non-profit companies who have elected to reimburse the State for unemployment benefit charges on a dollar-for-dollar basis rather than paying federal tax – will not benefit from the mutualizing of coronavirus-related discharges.
In most cases, an asymptomatic employee who imposes a self-quarantine because of the coronavirus will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own, so instances of self-quarantine are not eligible. However, if an employer requires an employee to stay home (without offering the option to work from home) based on suspicion of having coronavirus, that individual would be eligible for benefits if they otherwise meet ODJFS’s monetary and weekly eligibility criteria.
The Labor and Employment lawyers at Coolidge Wall will post additional analysis and information updates on other federal and state developments related to the coronavirus outbreak. Should you have specific questions, please contact us.
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