Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R-46), chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Labor and Industry Committee, forwarded correspondence to Attorney General Josh Shapiro regarding the status of employees who refuse to return to work after being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bartolotta urged Shapiro to specifically provide clarity to state residents following an April 20 news conference in which Gov. Tom Wolf suggested that employees who were laid off due to COVID-19 closures could refuse to return to work when their employers reopen. Wolf went on to say that those who did so would also still retain their eligibility for Unemployment Compensation (UC) benefits.
Such a suggestion, Bartolotta said, violates Pennsylvania law, which states that employees are not eligible for UC benefits if they refused suitable work without just cause. According to a UC eligibility chart released April 27 by the PA Office of Unemployment Compensation, workers who choose to remain at home without infection while business remains open are not entitled to paid leave under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, expanded unemployment compensation, or workers’ compensation.
Bartolotta also argued that Wolf’s statement is in violation of federal guidance for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that states existing eligibility requirements must be followed in order to maintain integrity of the UC program.
“As Chair of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, I am dismayed by Governor Wolf’s continued guidance to Pennsylvanians to inappropriately collect unemployment compensation benefits and potentially commit UC fraud,” Bartolotta said. “Despite my urging and the urging of others for the Governor to correct the record, he has continued to offer similar guidance to Pennsylvanians in the weeks since that time.”
She is asking Shapiro to clearly explain both employee and employer rights and responsibilities under the law so that individuals do not inadvertently commit fraud based on the governor’s “faulty guidance.”
“Just as you recently advised UC claimants to be careful of scammers trying to steal personal information through fake unemployment filing websites, I ask that you offer similar caution to Pennsylvanians about the ramifications of committing UC fraud,” Bartolotta said.
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