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Controversial Ohio website reporting COVID-19 unemployed being re-evaluated

Posted at 10:06 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 23:25:01-04

CLEVELAND — The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported it's now re-evaluating its return to work resolution website, after the agency confirmed the site was hacked last week.

Northeast Ohio employment attorney Richard Haber, with the Haber Legal Group, told News 5 the website was set-up so that employers could report employees who failed to report back to work after being laid-off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Haber said the site is lacking detailed guidelines and definitive policy of exceptions for when a worker might have a legitimate reason for not yet getting back on the job.

Without policy exceptions Haber said thousands of workers may unfairly have their unemployment benefits stopped when they have legal safety and health reasons to maintain those benefits.

“It's clearly a mistake, which they’ve obviously recognized, because there are a number of employees that are going to be impacted by this,” Haber said.

“People over the age of 65, people with diabetes, people with immune compromised conditions, people with heart conditions.”

"This website that they set-up for reporting employees doesn’t take into account for any of those issues.”

“The Ohio Department of Job and Family Service is going to have to navigate all these issues to make sure people entitled to unemployment are getting unemployment.”

“Because a lot of employees aren’t capable of returning to work yet, because they’re at risk employees for any number of reasons, or because the workplace is not yet safe.”

Zach Schiller with Policy Matters Ohio told News 5 without specific exceptions the website is not necessarily in compliance with state business re-opening guidelines set-up by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.

“Read the Governor’s order and create legitimate exemptions for legitimate people who have good cause to not go back to work," Schiller said.

“If they allow employers to report that’s fine, as long as they have a system where people have legitimate exceptions.”

Ohio Job and Family Service Director Kimberly Hall is looking into it and basically placing the website's impact on-hold until more detailed policy exceptions can be put in place.

"How we can be more clear around what constitutes a good cause for a refusal," Hall said.

“No unemployment benefits are being terminated at this time if an individual refuses to return to work, until we articulate these policies.”

"None of us really contemplated the interrelationship between a pandemic and the resulting economic crisis that it could generate so we don't have, right now, an unemployment system that is responsive to pandemic-related issues."