March 16, 2020

COVID-19 Outbreak Prompts Flexibility in Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Per the newly issued guidance, states may amend their unemployment insurance laws to provide benefits in multiple scenarios related to COVID-19. According to the guidance, states are allowed to pay unemployment benefits in circumstances where an employer temporarily ceases operations due to COVID-19 and thereby prevents employees from coming to work. This circumstance is particularly relevant as more and more states, including Michigan, are moving to ban large gatherings of people, including in the workplace.

Additionally, pursuant to the newly issued guidance, states are allowed to provide unemployment insurance benefits where an individual is quarantined with the expectation of returning to work after the quarantine is over. Similarly, states may provide benefits where an individual leaves employment due to a risk of exposure or infection or to care for a family member. Importantly, federal law does not require an employee to quit in order to receive benefits due to the impact of COVID-19.

For employers and employees that are still reporting to work:

The Department of Labor has published additional guidance titled “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.” The guidance contains information regarding safe work practices and practical guidance for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. Such guidance encourages employees to stay home if they are sick, wash their hands frequently and thoroughly, to cover coughs and sneezes, and to explore any potential to work from home.

In the coming days Michigan will likely amend its procedures consistent with this new Federal guideline. Kerr Russell employment attorneys will continue to monitor and report on developments in this area. An employer having questions about how the COVID 19 threat may affect employer plans and policies should contact a Kerr Russell attorney.

Liam K. HealyLiam K. Healy of Kerr Russell practice clients maintain compliance with state and federal tax laws that govern individuals and businesses focuses his practice on helping clients maintain compliance with the myriad of state and federal tax laws and regulations that govern individuals and businesses. A particular focus of Liam’s practice is in the area of employee benefits and ERISA. Liam specializes in designing pension and executive compensation plans to benefit business owners and executives. His practice includes drafting and reviewing deferred compensation agreements, severance agreements and non-compete agreements, representing employers in multi-employer plan collection and withdrawal liability matters.


Mark C. KnothImage of Mark C. Knoth, Employment and Labor attorney of Kerr Russell chairs the firm’s Labor, Employment, Employee Benefits & ERISA Practice Group. He counsels and advises business owners, managers and human resources professionals on workplace issues. These include civil rights and anti-discrimination laws; employee discipline; wage and hour; overtime; employee leaves; reasonable accommodations; veterans issues; picketing; secondary boycotts; reductions in force; drug testing; unemployment compensation; affirmative action; and union organizing campaigns, among other matters. He additionally drafts employee policies, handbooks, contracts, and covenants not to compete, and investigates threats of violence, allegations of harassment, and other employee misconduct.

Olivia HankinsonOlivia V. Hankinson counsels and advises business owners, managers and human resources professionals on various labor and employment related issues. These often involve concerns which may implicate employment laws including the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. Olivia represents employers with respect to unemployment insurance hearings, MIOSHA violation allegations, EEOC investigations, and other employment law matters. She also drafts employee handbooks, employment agreements, restrictive covenants, and various other employment policies.

Other posts to consider: