Client Alerts Labor & Employment / 03.16.2020

Ohio Unemployment Regulations Relaxed in Response to COVID-19

By Demetrius Robinson & Rob Gilmore

Ohio bars, restaurants, gyms, fitness centers, recreation centers, bowling alleys, indoor water parks, movie theaters and trampoline parks have all been ordered to restrict operations or to close indefinitely in response to the coronavirus outbreak. These businesses will likely be adversely affected and may need to lay off staff. In order to mitigate the impact that these directives may have on business, the Governor’s office has implemented temporary unemployment insurance relief through executive action.

Governor Mike DeWine issued an executive order relaxing certain restrictions related to the ability of employees to receive unemployment benefits because of layoffs attributed to COVID-19 and the recent executive actions. Under the executive order, employers may not be adversely affected when they lay off employees as a result of the impact of COVID-19. If an employer must lay off an employee due to decreased productivity or other factors directly related to COVID-19, an employee may be able to apply for and receive unemployment benefits through the state, without an employer’s unemployment tax account being adversely affected.

Normally, when an employee receives unemployment benefits as a result of a layoff (“no-fault termination”), then the unemployment benefits are directly attributed to the employer’s unemployment tax account and the employer’s unemployment tax rates are usually negatively impacted in subsequent tax years. However, under the executive order, unemployment benefits for employees who receive unemployment benefits as a result of factors related to the COVID-19 will not be attributed to an employer’s account and instead will be charged to the general mutualized tax account. This will reduce the likelihood that an employer’s unemployment tax rates might be increased, in subsequent years, due to an increase in the unemployment benefits.

For employees, the usual one-week waiting period before an employee can file for unemployment has been suspended during the duration of the coronavirus emergency declaration period. In addition, if an employee has been quarantined based upon a request from a medical professional, local health authority or the employer because of a suspicion of having contracted COVID-19, that individual may be eligible for unemployment benefits as if they were unemployed. Furthermore, an employee may be exempt from the requirement to be “actively” seeking employment if they are quarantined as a result of COVID-19 or other circumstances outlined in the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (“ODJFS”)  guidance. Employees can be directed to file for unemployment online at unemployment.ohio.gov.

Finally, ODJFS has been directed to waive late reporting or late payment fees that may occur as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on an employer’s business, for the duration of this emergency declaration.

For more information about these changes, contact Demetrius Robinson at djr@kjk.com or 614.427.5749, Rob Gilmore at rsg@kjk.com or 216.736.7240, or reach out to any of our Labor & Employment professionals. 

 

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