Job & Family Services Office of Fiscal and Monitoring Services
COVID-19 Return-to-Work Policy

The Unemployment Insurance program provides partial wage replacement for qualified individuals who are unemployed through no fault of their own and otherwise meet continued eligibility requirements. As a condition of maintaining state and federal benefits, individuals must act upon any referral to suitable employment and must accept any offer of suitable employment.

Ohio law states that individuals are not entitled to unemployment benefits if they have "refused without good cause to accept an offer of suitable work when made by an employer." The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is required to investigate claims involving individuals who quit work without good cause and/or who refuse offers of work without good cause.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers implemented layoffs as a result of "stay-at-home" orders, social distancing restrictions and lack of available work. As the economy reopens, employers are expected to abide by state and local safety rules, and employees are expected to return to their previous employment if asked to do so and if there is not otherwise good cause for refusing to return to work.

This policy is intended to clarify the process for evaluating whether good cause exists for refusing an offer of suitable work.  


Claims specialists will apply the "reasonable person standard," when an otherwise bright-line rule does not exist, to determine whether good cause exists for refusing an offer of suitable work.

Good Cause:
Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order Number 2020-24D, during COVID-19, "good cause" for refusing suitable work can include any one of the following:
  1. A medical professional’s recommendation that an individual not return to work because he/she falls into a category that is considered "high risk" for contracting COVID-19 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the employer cannot offer teleworking options.
  2. The employee is 65 years of age or older.
  3. Tangible evidence of a health and safety violation by the employer that does not allow the employee to practice social distancing, hygiene and wearing protective equipment.
  4. Potential exposure to COVID-19 and a prescribed quarantine imposed by a medical or health professional.
  5. Staying home to care for a family member who is suffering from COVID-19 or subject to a prescribed quarantine imposed by a medical or health professional.
Reasonable Person Standard:
"Reasonable person standard" is the standard by which someone who exercises average care, skill and judgment views each benefit fact pattern to determine whether good cause exists to refuse an offer of suitable work.
Suitable Work:
"Suitable work" is appropriate employment for the individual, taking into consideration such things as the individual’s age, education level, work experience and physical fitness for work. Suitability of work is established based upon conditions including, but not limited to, the following:
  • Prior Training and Work Experience – The work is in line with what the individual was doing or was trained to do. There is a strong presumption that if the work the individual previously performed was suitable, it is suitable when offered again.
  • Wages and Benefits – A review of the total pay and benefit package to determine if it is substantially similar to the previously performed work.
  • Travel Distance – Whether the distance to the job is within the customary commuting pattern for the applicant’s occupation and the area of residence.
  • Shift and Hours – The shift of hours offered is characteristic of the occupation in the locality offered.
  • Health and Physical Fitness – Whether the individual is physically able to perform the job.
  • Health and Safety – Whether the health and safety precautions recommended during the COVID-19 transition are being followed.

Process for Investigating Work Refusals

Federal law requires individuals to meet weekly eligibility requirements, including that they be able and available for suitable work each week, and accept offers of suitable work. Corresponding state law requires that employers who have recalled individuals who refuse to return to work inform the agency and provide the information specified in the eligibility notice (Ohio Revised Code Section 4141.28(F)). Employers can notify the agency by filing the "Eligibility Notice/Refusal to Return to Work Form." A claims specialist will conduct an investigation, and facts from the employer and employee will be gathered to weigh whether the refusal was for good cause. Both parties will have the ability to appeal the determination.

Impact on Eligibility

Pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order and underscored in this policy, when an employee is recalled to work in the same position as prior to the Director of Health’s special orders, there is a presumption that the position is considered "suitable work." If it is determined that the individual did not have good cause to refuse employment, unemployment benefits will be denied. If it is determined that the individual does have good cause to refuse employment, the benefits will continue for the duration of the benefit year, as long as the individual remains otherwise eligible. If the investigation finds that the refusal was made with the intent to obtain additional benefits, a fraud finding could be added.