HOUSTON - As more of Texas heads back to work, many have questions about unemployment and safety in the return to work environment.
One popular question: If you took a leave from work during the coronavirus pandemic, can you go back and apply for unemployment benefits, and how does that impact your employer?
“I had three of the four risk factors involved in getting the virus,” said Barry Webb who chose to stop working during coronavirus pandemic.
Being 65 with diabetes and heart disease, Webb didn’t want to risk getting COVID-19. He took 6 weeks off work unpaid. So did his wife.
“My wife took off so that she didn’t expose herself and then expose me,” said Webb.
Now he’s back to work but also out of money.
“The question I asked was: can I apply for unemployment?”
FOX 26 senior legal analyst Chris Tritico says the answer is yes, and without any financial impact on your employer.
“Under the CARES Act and specifically under Governor Abbott’s order, you can stay home if you’re 65 years of age or older and you’re afraid that you’re going to catch COVID-19,” said FOX 26 senior legal analyst Chris Tritico. “Governor Abbott specifically said that people and everyone in your house can stay home and collect unemployment, and that’s not going to penalize your employer as a result of that because of the order.”
Webb returned to his job at CGP Manufacturing last week.
“We could have taken off for another week or two, but then it would be hard to go to the grocery store,” said Webb.
But what about people who still have fears of coronavirus and want to stay home longer even though they’re being told by their employers to return to work?
“If your employer says report to work, the CARES Act is not going to give you that benefit anymore, because now you have to report to work,” said Tritico. “But if you can work out an agreement or arrangement with your employer—I’m in that range where I’m subject to getting sick, so furlough me. There’s still money under the CARES Act, so furlough me and let me collect this money until it runs out, then I’ll come back to work--you might be able to work that out.”
The furloughs go for people under 65 years of age as well.
You can’t just say I’m going to stay home, but if your employer furloughs you, the CARES Act does provide funding to cover your compensation during that time.