When Congress was drafting the enhanced unemployment benefits available under the FFCRA some lawmakers opposed the additional $600 per week benefit because it could incentivize workers to remain on unemployment rather than returning to work. As Texas prepares to return to work, those lawmakers concerns are coming to fruition.
There are anecdotal reports that some employers making plans to bring employees back to work are encountering some employees who do not want to return to work either due to COVId-19 fears or because they receive as much or more through unemployment benefits as they do through working.
According the Texas Tribune, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commissioner announced that employees who refuse to return to work when asked by the employer risk losing their unemployment benefits. However, employers should keep in mind that employees may be entitled to paid sick leave or expanded FMLA benefits, including job protection, in some situations.
Moreover, if employers are SBA PPP recipients who want to maintain their payroll to maximize their loan forgiveness, employers should keep in mind that the payroll comparison for loan forgiveness is not tied to specific employees. Instead, the loan forgiveness is tied to the payroll numbers and total payroll during a specified period before receipt of the loan and in the eight weeks after receipt of the loan. Thus, should employers face employees who refuse return to work, the employer can still use it payroll on new employees and use that payroll for PPP loan forgiveness purposes.