CHARLESTON — Though Gov. Jim Justice and his top health officials urge those who are at high risk of complications if they contracted COVID-19 to stay home from work as state businesses begin to reopen, employees who feel going to work could jeopardize their health cannot continue to collect unemployment benefits in West Virginia.
If a person’s employer opens back up, employees who refuse to return could be committing fraud if they continue to collect unemployment benefits, according to WorkForce West Virginia. Similarly, if a person declines an offer of a comparable job with comparable benefits, they will be disqualified from receiving benefits.
“While certain state laws regarding unemployment benefits have been waived to help alleviate financial burdens caused by COVID-19, we cannot waive federal requirements,” said Scott Adkins, acting WorkForce West Virginia commissioner, in a news release. “Most workers receiving unemployment benefits are following the law, but we want to remind folks that they need to educate themselves on what they need to do as they file claims each week.”
Justice said several times he encourages those over the age of 65 or those otherwise at high risk to continue to stay home. He has also asked all employers to allow working from home to the greatest extent possible, even as restrictions are lifted.
But if an employer is not allowing someone to work from home or otherwise finding accommodations for vulnerable employees, Justice said Friday to give his office a call.
“If you’ve got someone being unreasonable and doing what they shouldn’t be doing, I don’t like it,” Justice said. “I want us all to pull the rope together.”
Justice said there are some rules that he may not like but people have to live with. But he wants everyone to try and work together in harmony, especially to protect the elderly.
“If people are not doing that, I want to hear about it,” he said.
Justice’s office can be contacted by calling 304-558-2000 or 888-438-2731. Comments can also be submitted online at www.governor.wv.gov.
Workers who are called back by their employer but work reduced hours may still qualify for unemployment benefits. These workers should continue to file weekly claims and report all earnings. If a worker is earning more than their previous weekly benefit amount, they will not be eligible for benefits that week.
For more information about unemployment benefits, visit www.workforcewv.org.