Can Employees Collect Unemployment if They Refuse to Return to Work?

Posted on July 9th, by Hoberman & Lesser in Timely Articles.

Most states are reopening in phases and employees are being called back to work. In general, most states have provisions that require workers receiving unemployment benefits to be actively seeking work, but many states relaxed that requirement due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Some states are now warning unemployment benefit recipients that if their employers are reopening, but they refuse to go back to work, they’ll be deemed to have refused work and will be ineligible for unemployment benefits as a result.


State unemployment laws generally disqualify an individual from claiming unemployment benefits if they refuse suitable work. Being called back to work and refusing may fall under the disqualification category.

Q. My employer asked me to come back to work, but I do not feel safe going back. Can I not go back to work and keep filing for unemployment?

A. Failure to accept work when you are able and available will disqualify you for unemployment benefits.

A Changing Environment

The unique circumstances that COVID-19 has brought on have caused guidance from state agencies to change. Check with your payroll and tax advisors for the latest information in your situation.

If you would like to review answers to commonly asked tax questions, please visit our Year End Tax Guide here.