LAYOFFS AND FURLOUGHS DUE TO COVID-19 IN OHIO: WHAT ALL EMPLOYEES NEED TO KNOW.
Employers across Ohio are closing their operations due to Gov. DeWine’s declaration of a state of emergency and the “Shelter in Place” Order. While the emergency declaration and the “Shelter in Place” Order are necessary to #flattenthecurve, many Ohio businesses are reducing their workforce due to the coronavirus pandemic through layoffs, furloughs, reductions in hours, and pay cuts. The business decisions an employer makes have different impacts on its employees.
If you have been laid off, furloughed or had a reduction in hours, you have important rights.
OHIO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
The emergency declaration expands unemployment coverage in Ohio until the emergency declaration is lifted.
- If you are quarantined due to COVID-19 you are eligible for unemployment benefits.
- The one week waiting period to file for unemployment benefits has been waived so an unemployed worker can file for benefits immediately upon being separated.
The online form to apply is found at: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us/forms/num/JFS00671/pdf/. Applying online will help expedite your application.
If you are working, but have a reduction in hours, you may still be eligible to apply; however, your earnings will be deducted from your maximum benefit amount. This means if what you earn in a week with reduced hours is more than your state maximum benefit, you will not receive unemployment. Maximum Weekly Benefits are:
|Number of Dependents||If your Average Weekly Wage was:||Maximum Weekly Benefit|
|0||$960 or higher||$480|
|1 or 2||$1,164 or higher||$582|
|3 or more||$1,294 or higher||$647|
- The emergency declaration has waived the requirement that a person receiving unemployment benefits is “actively seeking work.”
THE CORONAVIRUS AID, RELIEF, AND EMERGENCY SECURITY ACT
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Emergency Security Act or the “CARES Act” that passed on March 27, 2020 impacts your unemployment benefit entitlement and Maximum Weekly Benefits. Under this federal stimulus law, if you have an unemployment claim in Ohio, you are entitled to an additional weekly $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment on top of existing state unemployment benefits for a maximum of thirty-nine weeks, subject to further extension rules. Further, sick employees who have the coronavirus can also collect unemployment if they are not receiving paid leave benefits.
The CARES Act mandates extension of unemployment coverage to an individual who is otherwise able to work and:
- who is not eligible for regular compensation or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation;
- who has exhausted all rights to regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation;
- who is unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because the individual has been diagnosed with COVID–19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID–19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
- who is caring for a household family member who has been diagnosed with COVID–19;
- who is primary caregiver for a child or other person in the household who is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and this prevents work;
- who is an employee or new hire that is unable to reach the place of employment because of a COVID-19 quarantine or health provider self-quarantine;
- who has become the breadwinner or source of major support for a household because the head of the household has died from COVID–19;
- who has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID–19 due to closure of the place of employment; or
- who is self-employed, is seeking part-time employment, does not have sufficient work history, or otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits under State or Federal law or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation.
WAGE AND HOUR CONSIDERATIONS
No pay means no work.
If you have had your normal work hours reduced, your employer cannot require you to do any work outside of those reduced hours without you getting paid for it. In other words, if an employer asks an employee to do any work during the reduced hours, then the employee must be compensated for that time. Things like answering emails, taking phone calls, picking up mail, etc. are all work activities for which employees must be compensated.
An employer cannot reduce an hourly employee’s pay below the Ohio minimum wage which is currently $8.70 per hour. Employers cannot reduce a salaried employee’s weekly wage below $684 per week. Both of these are still violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Ohio Wage Act.
The Ohio Prompt Pay Act remains in effect. Employers must still pay employees at least on a bi-weekly basis and cannot make an employee wait more than 30-days for their paycheck.
NEW FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE RIGHTS AND PAID SICK TIME
On March 18, 2020, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFRCA) became law. The law includes two new important provisions for Ohio workers: 1) an emergency expansion to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and 2) a new Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act that requires paid leave for employees forced to miss work because of the COVID-19 outbreak in certain circumstances:
EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE EXPANSION ACT
- Applies to private employers with fewer than 500 employees and to all public employers that are covered by the FMLA regardless of size.
- An employee is eligible after he or she has been employed for at least 30 calendar days before the first day of the leave.
- Employees are entitled to 12 weeks of protected leave if the employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency. A public health emergency means an emergency with respect to COVID-19 declared by a federal, state, or local authority.
- The first 2 weeks of leave are unpaid, but an employee may elect to substitute any accrued vacation leave, personal leave, or medical or sick leave for unpaid leave.
- After the first 2 weeks, leave is paid at two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, with a cap of $200 per day. For employees with schedules that vary from week to week, a six-month average is to be used to calculate the number of hours to be paid. Employees who have worked for less than six months prior to leave are entitled to the employee’s reasonable expectation at hiring of the average number of hours the employee would normally be scheduled to work.
- The Secretary of Labor is empowered to issue regulations to exclude healthcare providers and emergency responders from the definition of employees who are allowed to take such leave, and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if the required leave would jeopardize the viability of their business.
EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE ACT
Requires private employers with fewer than 500 employees and public employers regardless of size to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave to employees on top of what the employer now provides (if any). This new paid sick time applies to employees who are unable to work, or telework, because the employee:
- Is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order.
- Has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- Is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
- Is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine as described above.
- Is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care has been closed or whose childcare provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions.
- Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health & Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.