Ohio, like all other states, is facing an unprecedented rise in unemployment claims as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  In Ohio, 111,055 unemployment claims were filed between March 15-18, 2020.  At the same point just one week ago, there were under 4,000 claims.  These numbers are expected to increase in the coming days and weeks as the State has shut down bars, restaurants, gyms, and hair salons.

To simplify the unemployment process, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has developed an instruction sheet for layoffs and shutdowns related to COVID-19; available here.  ODJFS has instructed Ohio employers to provide this form to affected employees to assist them with the process of applying for unemployment benefits, as well as the following mass layoff number to expedite the processing of unemployment benefits:  2000180.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine also issued an Executive Order that includes the following changes to Ohio’s unemployment system during the state’s emergency declaration period:

  1. Unemployed workers will include individuals requested by a medical professional, local health authority, or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19 even if not actually diagnosed with COVID-19; and
  2. Individuals totally or partially unemployed, or who are participating in the SharedWork Ohio Program will not be required to serve a waiting period before receiving unemployment insurance or SharedWork benefits; and
  3. Any benefit paid on these unemployment claims shall not be charged to the account of the employer who otherwise would have been charged but instead shall be charged to the mutualized account, except reimbursing employers; and
  4. Waiver of work search requirements shall include those individuals requested by a medical professional, local health authority or employer to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19 even if not actually diagnosed with COV-19; and
  5. Penalties for late reporting and payments will be waived for employers affected by COVID-19.

Ohio employers must consider the timing and effect of layoffs resulting in unemployment claims in conjunction with new sick leave requirements included in the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (discussed here and going into effect April 2, 2020), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and your own workplace policies.

These are trying and complicated times.  Please consult one of our Ohio labor and employment law team members to determine the best course of action for your business and your employees.