Workers can refuse unsafe conditions

Many employees are forced with the decision, ‘Do I go back and risk my life, or say no and risk being kicked off unemployment and not be able to pay my bills?’

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Columnists

June 11, 2020 - 10:00 AM

Demonstrators hold signs during a strike outside of Allan Brothers Fruit in Naches, Wash. on May 18, 2020. Located in Yakima County, the company's fruit packing employees were protesting working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by David Ryder/Zuma Press/TNS

The New York Times recently ran an article on the “painful reprisals” that some employees are experiencing for refusing to come back to what they feel are unsafe conditions.

As businesses reopen after being shut down due to COVID-19, some of these workers are being fired outright. Others are being reported to state officials for having refused work, as a U.S. Labor Department guidance memo has urged, leading to the suspension of their unemployment benefits.

“Their choices are: ‘Do I go back and risk my life, or say no and risk being kicked off unemployment and not be able to pay my bills?’” Rachel Bussett, an employment lawyer in Oklahoma, told the Times.

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