What are your options if your job re-opens but you’re not ready to go back?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) — As Florida continues the process of re-opening for business, furloughed workers are being called back to their jobs.

It’s a sigh of relief for many, but not everyone is physically or emotionally ready. People with underlying health conditions who work in close contact with people may view going back to work just as bad, if not worse, than getting laid off in the first place.

That includes Robert, a 73-year-old hairdresser who reached out to 8 On Your Side but did not want to share his last name or the salon where he works.

“We were not supposed to be open in Phase One,” he said. “And yet here we are, open in Phase One.”

His salon reopened Friday, May 15 but Robert won’t be going back for now. He has heart disease and high blood pressure, and fears catching COVID-19 from his hands-on profession.

He reached out to 8 On Your Side to find out what his rights were. We took his questions straight to employment lawyer Alissa Kranz with Tampa firm Lieser Skaff Alexander.

“Everyone needs to know what their rights are,” Kranz said.

If you don’t go back to work over coronavirus concerns, Kranz said that’s generally considered a voluntary quit and you would likely not qualify for unemployment.

However, it’s very possible someone like Robert could with documentation from a doctor, thanks to provisions in the CARES Act.

The same goes for parents if the pandemic eliminated all childcare options and they must stay home to take care of children.

Keep in mind that even if you qualify for unemployment assistance under the CARES Act and opt for that avenue that you might not have a job to go back to once you are ready.

“So, termination or voluntary quitting might not be the road to go,” Kranz explained.

The other options, if you just want to buy a little time, is to use the two week emergency paid leave allocated in the federal Families First Act.

Robert says he’ll take his chance on unemployment, hopeful his job will still be waiting when he comes back.

“I guess the state just has to make a decision with the letter from my doctor,” he said.

Kranz also recommends that employers and employees look up and become familiar with what OSHA and the CDC are recommending as best practices for their type of business during the pandemic.

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