Eric Johnson

March 16, 2020 

Through Executive Order on March 15, 2020, Governor Michael DeWine announced an expansion of Ohio’s unemployment benefits to address the evolving COVID-19 situation.  Announced in conjunction with the state’s shutdown of bars and restaurants impacting hundreds of thousands of employees, the Governor’s Executive Order specifically addressed the following issues:

Layoff Due to Lack of Work. 

So long as other eligibility requirements are satisfied, employees who are laid off due to lack of work from the coronavirus’ impact on bar and restaurant operations will be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

Waiver of Waiting Period.

The Governor indicated that the normal one-week waiting period prior to the receipt of unemployment benefits will be waived.

Eligibility Based on Self-Quarantine.

In most cases, an asymptomatic employee who determines to self-quarantine would not be eligible for unemployment benefits.  Under Ohio law, unemployment benefits are available to individuals who are totally or partially unemployed due to no fault of their own.  In this example, the individual is choosing not to work and, therefore, would be ineligible.  However, the facts of each circumstance are important to determine eligibility.   For example, eligibility may depend upon specific facts such as whether the self-quarantine was truly the employee’s choice or whether an employee was permitted to work remotely.

Eligibility Based on Mandatory Quarantine.

Unlike the situation of voluntary self-quarantine above, if an employee is in mandatory quarantine – through the employer’s requirement or through a public health organization determination – because of a suspicion of having the coronavirus, the employee will be considered unemployed.  In these situations, the employee need not be actively seeking work in order to qualify for benefits.

Impact Upon Employers.

In the executive order, Governor DeWine allows unemployment benefit charges incurred following a coronavirus-related business shutdown to be mutualized for contributory employers.  Reimbursing employers will follow existing charging requirements under Ohio Revised Code 4141.  In addition, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will waive penalties for late reporting and payments during Ohio’s emergency declaration period.

Eric Johnson is chair of the Labor and Employment Law group at Walter |Haverfield. He can be reached at ejohnson@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2890.