Can an employee refuse to return to work when recalled
solely because they want to remain on unemployment
No. This would disqualify them for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
The unintended consequence of the Federal government’s decision to provide an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits during the pandemic-related shutdowns is that many workers have little incentive to return to work. However, they cannot use the relatively high unemployment payments as a reason to refuse a return-to-work offer.
If this situation arises, send your employees clear written return-to-work offers, and then notify the Unemployment Insurance Office of any rejected offers to rehire that are based solely on a desire to remain on unemployment.
Of course, as we have written about before (see
), if an employee has a documented medical condition they can request an accommodation, and if they have COVID-19-related childcare problems they can request FMLA leave.
Can an employee refuse to wear a face covering?
As of this writing California is currently under a mandatory face covering order.
If the refusal is based on a legitimate medical, then yes, the employee can refuse to wear a face covering.
Otherwise, if you have implemented a COVID-19 return-to-work protocol that includes a requirement for all employees to wear face coverings, whether or not the mandate is still in place, an employee cannot refuse simply because they don’t like wearing face coverings, think it is unnecessary, consider it an infringement of their personal liberties, etc. In this situation the employee can be disciplined or even terminated for continued non-compliance.