Today, ACLU-WV joined 20 other legal, social justice, labor and faith groups in calling on Gov. Jim Justice, Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch, and Workforce WV to use their emergency and regular powers to protect workers from losing unemployment if they or family members are at risk due to COVID-19 and they decline to immediately return to work when their employers reopen.

The letter outlines several concerns and documents remedies that could be used to protect workers from having to immediately re-enter the workforce if they are at risk:

1.     Confirm that individuals with health conditions that put them at risk for complications due to COVID-19 are entitled to unemployment benefits if they leave or turn down work that risks exposure.

2.     Allow individuals who live with at-risk individuals to continue to collect unemployment if they turn down or leave work that risks exposure.

3.     Publicly release the conditions being used by WorkForce WV to determine suitable work during the COVID-19 crisis.

4.     Ensure that the Commissioner is engaged in individualized assessments of suitability, taking into account the individual’s health, safety, and morals.

5.     Issue a statement declaring it a public policy of West Virginia for employers to provide employees with safe workplaces in accordance with OSHA/HHS guidelines. 

6.     Take proactive steps to educate employees and employers about unemployment options during this crisis.