ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some employees may not feel safe at their job during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Workforce Solutions is holding off on reinstating some unemployment requirements to help them out, putting more responsibility on businesses to have COVID-safe practices.
Typically, anyone who quits a job is not eligible for unemployment benefits. The department is extending a change, which a spokesperson said was made in March, which allows eligibility to someone who quits their job and can prove their employer was not implementing COVID-safe practices.
“If you can prove that your workplace is not safe. If people are not wearing masks, if supervisors are not really pushing for social distancing and not doing all those things we talk about in order to make workplaces safe, we will allow you to have unemployment if you can prove it,” Bill McCamley, Cabinet Secretary of the Department of Workforce Solutions, said.
The department did not give examples of what that proof may look like. The department also acknowledged that if someone can prove they have a serious preexisting health condition keeping them from going to work during the pandemic, they can also apply for unemployment.
If employers violate worker safety laws, which now also include COVID-19 practices like systematically requiring employees to wear masks, it can get a notice of imminent danger posted on its business, court action, or fined up to $131,000.
“The more we can safely open up our workplaces, the more people will get off unemployment and back to jobs, and that is our main goal,” McCamley said.
In March, the department waived the work search requirement for unemployment eligibility. It was supposed to be reinstated on July 18 but now will continue to be waived until further notice.
From mid-May to mid-July the department said it has seen 150,00-157,000 certifications for unemployment which is about double the amount in 2009. The state is also starting a commercial campaign to highlight businesses with exemplary COVID-19 safety practices.
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