Some States Let Vulnerable Workers Turn Down Jobs

May 7, 2020

As some governors start to allow businesses to reopen, they're under pressure to clarify whether people can refuse a job offer and stay on unemployment if they're afraid of catching the coronavirus at work.

As confusion swirls, worker advocates are urging state officials to spell out policies and legal aid groups are gearing up to defend workers in court. 

Some state labor departments, such as Missouri's and Iowa's, have announced that workers will lose unemployment benefits if they refuse a job. Many state labor departments also are telling employers that they must report workers who turn down job offers.

The U.S. Department of Labor says that workers who turn down a job will lose some federal benefits, except in the limited circumstances set by Congress, such as when the worker is ill with the coronavirus.

With so many people struggling to get unemployment benefits, let alone keep them, some workers will end up taking their complaints to court. All of these things that we're talking about, we expect that we'll have to litigate at some point," said Anne Carder, a managing attorney for the Atlanta Legal Aid Society.

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