With his parents moving in with him in a matter of weeks — his father, 75, a two-time cancer survivor and mother, 71, both fleeing rising coronavirus cases in Florida — Burlingame quit, deciding that he couldn’t continue to go into a workplace he no longer believed was safe. Burlingame’s employer did not respond to a request for comment.
Burlingame was denied unemployment insurance by the commonwealth of Massachusetts, falling into the gaps between state and federal laws that only give limited protection to people who choose to quit work for safety reasons. He has been living without any income since July.
Burlingame is one of more than 1.5 million people who quit their jobs voluntarily because of the pandemic last year and filed for unemployment insurance, according to data from the Department of Labor, more than twice the amount over the same period in 2019. Some 80 percent have had their claims denied. A separate group of 75,000 have applied for unemployment insurance after being laid off and declining to return to work; 49 percent of that group had their claims denied.
The statistics speak to an unfortunate legacy of the pandemic: many workers have been forced to choose between a paycheck and their or their family’s health.
“My dad beat cancer twice,” Burlingame said. “I’m not going to bring something home to him and let him have two big wins beating cancer and then have this kind of thing shut him down because someone wanted their profit margin to be high.”
Complicating matters, a jobless claim gets treated differently under disparate state unemployment systems, pointing to the challenges facing the Biden administration, which seeks to cut down on the number of workers who have been denied unemployment assistance because they were concerned about the safety risks of going to work.
A new executive action issued by President Biden in January directs the Department of Labor to clarify federal rules so that workers who refuse to go to unsafe workplaces will be more likely to be granted unemployment insurance. A White House official said the Department of Labor’s guidance will clarify what qualifies as an unsafe workplace.
“You could be denied unemployment insurance because you’re offered a job and you didn’t take it. It’s wrong,” Biden said, announcing the executive action last month. “No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their own health or the health of their loved ones in the middle of a deadly pandemic.”
The Washington Post interviewed more than a dozen people who said they quit their jobs, or declined to return to their jobs after the reopenings last year because of fears about coronavirus infections. Another handful of workers said that they continued attending jobs they believed were unsafe, because they did not think they…
Go to the news source: Biden executive order on unemployment insurance may give workers ability to refu…