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As businesses reopen, employees faced with consequences of (not) returning

Shoppers walk the floor outside stores at the International Mall Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. Twenty percent of the stores were operating when the mall reopened, with more to follow later in the day. The mall is taking active measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (Source: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Shoppers walk the floor outside stores at the International Mall Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. Twenty percent of the stores were operating when the mall reopened, with more to follow later in the day. The mall is taking active measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. (Source: AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Published: May. 12, 2020 at 11:36 AM CDT
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Employees across the Valley are weighing safety versus a paycheck.

At the Hair Queen on University Drive in Huntsville, customers strolled in on May 8, buying an assortment of hair and beauty products.

Co-owner Anwar Asmar said the re-opening of retail stores in Alabama doubled his customers, and business is “booming.”

Asmar said he’ been able to bring 70 to 80 percent of his staff back on board, while the others are waiting it out.

“They chose to stay home, they chose to stay safe, and no one can blame them for that,” he said.

He said he’ll welcome back the staff members once they’re more comfortable, but he is hiring to fill the gap.

The Alabama Department of Labor Communications Director Tara Hutchison said generally speaking, employees are disqualified for unemployment benefits if they stay home, but there are exceptions.

“If you or a member of your immediate family has been diagnosed with COVID and your having to care for them, that would be a valid exception for not going,” she said.

Hutchison emailed WAFF this list of exceptions:

Without having been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine, an individual who does not go to work due to general concerns about exposure to COVID-19, and who does not meet any of the other COVID-related criteria for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), is not eligible for unemployment. The CARES Act provides for PUA benefits under 10 circumstances.

• The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;

• A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;

• The individual is providing care for a family member or a member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;

• A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for the individual to work;

• The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;

• The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because the individual has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;

• The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency;

• The individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;

• The individual has to quit his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19; or

• The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

If a claimant is requested to return to work and they don’t meet any of the above circumstances, benefits will cease.

Hutchison said employees should reach out to their HR departments about arranging a return to work.

She said the department will be following up with companies file their wage reports.

Copyright 2020 WAFF. All rights reserved

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