Having an employee reject your recall from furlough is a common employer concern. If this happens to you, it is important to inquire about the nature of the objection and respond accordingly. Here, we will discuss what to do if your employees express fear about returning to work when they’ve been recalled from furlough.
Remember to document your recall in writing, and also document the response. That way, you have a record for your files, as well as a documentation for any third parties that need to be involved.
Also remember, that situations like these are best handled with understanding and empathy, rather than threats.
If an employee is fearful in general, or lives with someone who is particularly vulnerable, and they’re concerned about infecting them, talk to the employee about all of the precautions that the company is taking to keep everyone safe. If it’s an option, you should consider having the employee work from home, at least in the short term.
If working from home is not an option, and they still object after discussing the safety precautions with you, remind them that if they are receiving unemployment benefits, they are required to report the recall to the unemployment office and that you can also report the refusal and this may effect their unemployment eligibility.
At this point, the choices you can offer would be to return to work on the required date or to request an unpaid personal leave of absence.
If they still refuse after given these options, then the company may consider this refusal a resignation of employment.
If an employee informs you that they are fearful because they themselves have a health condition, are immunocompromised or are particularly vulnerable due to age, consider again whether this is a job that may be performed from home. If so, allow the employee to work remotely. If not, explore whether the employee would be eligible for emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the FFCRA). Reason number two of the EPSL revisions allows for up to two weeks of paid leave for employees who have been told to self-quarantine because they have, or may have COVID-19, or are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
If they’re not eligible or have exhausted the two weeks of EPSL, the employee may be able to request a medical leave of absence under your company’s medical leave policy or state law that might apply under these circumstances.
Most-likely to apply here is the American’s With Disabilities Act, the ADA, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees. Most conditions that make someone especially vulnerable to COVID-19 will be considered disabilities under these circumstances. So, you will need to provide reasonable accommodations such as working from home or a leave of absence.
In addition, the employee may have options under the continuation of unemployment benefits or partial wage replacement, depending on the state or the circumstance.