What are your options if your work reopens but you are not ready to return?

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TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – As Florida continues to reopen businesses, workers on leave are called back to work.

It’s a sigh of relief for many, but not everyone is ready physically or emotionally. People with underlying health conditions who work in close contact with people may see the return to work just as bad, if not worse, than the layoff in the first place.

That includes Robert, a 73-year-old hairstylist who contacted 8 On Your Side but didn’t want to share his last name or the salon he works in.

“We were not supposed to be open during phase one,” he said. “And yet here we are, open in Phase One.”

His living room reopened on Friday May 15 but Robert will not be returning for the moment. He suffers from heart disease and high blood pressure and is afraid of catching COVID-19 from his profession.

He contacted 8 On Your Side to find out what his rights were. We posed her questions directly to employment lawyer Alissa Kranz with Tampa Lieser Skaff Alexander.

“Everyone needs to know what their rights are,” said Kranz.

If you don’t go back to work on coronavirus problems, Kranz said that this is generally considered voluntary termination and that you probably wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment.

However, it is very possible that someone like Robert can obtain documents from a doctor, thanks to the provisions of the CARES law.

The same goes for parents if the pandemic has eliminated all child care options and they have to stay home to care for the children.

Keep in mind that even if you are eligible for unemployment assistance under the CARES Act and opt for this avenue you may not have a job to return once you are ready.

“So voluntary termination or abandonment may not be the way to go,” said Kranz.

The other options, if you just want to save some time, is to use the two-week emergency paid leave provided for in the Federal Families Act first.

Robert says he will try his luck against unemployment, hoping that his job will always wait until he returns.

“I guess the state only has to make a decision with my doctor’s letter,” he said.

Kranz also recommends that employers and employees research and familiarize themselves with what OSHA and the CDC recommend as best practices for their type of business during the pandemic.

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