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Coronavirus: What if you're worried about returning to work?

More than 30,000 more workers are expected to return to work on Monday as Stay at Home restrictions expire.

Minnesota's Stay at Home order will expire on Monday and the state's non-essential retail sector will be allowed to resume, including the reopening of malls.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says that the change will see 34,000 more Minnesotans go back to work.

DEED has provided guidance for how businesses can resume operations and the safety protocols they are advised to have in place, which you can find here.

But with the coronavirus still spreading in Minnesota, and with the state not expected to hit its peak till perhaps July, what happens to workers who don't want to return to work for fear of contracting the virus?

We've had a look at some of the key questions about workers returning to employment:

If you're offered your job back but you don't want to go, you can't claim unemployment

Currently, those on unemployment benefits who are offered their jobs back but don't want to go for fear of catching COVID-19 will no longer be eligible to receive benefits.

Every time you request benefits, you are asked if you've refused an offer of suitable employment, and if you have and don't tell the truth, you'll be responsible for repaying any money you received, and could be subject of collection efforts.

So if someone says they have the chance of returning to work but don't want to as they get paid more on unemployment, that likely means they're no longer eligible for it.

Furthermore, FOX 9 reports that employers have the right to fire any employees who don't want to return to work.

But there are exemptions for at-risk workers, parents

Workers who have underlying health conditions, such as the immunocompromised, are still being told to stay home, and can miss work without it affecting their unemployment benefits.

This is also the case for those who have to look after their children due to the cancellation of school or daycare, provided they can show they've made reasonable efforts to find suitable care.

You can also continue to get unemployment insurance if your employer tells you to stay at home and not work because there's been an outbreak of COVID-19 at the place of work.

You should still stay home if you're sick

Businesses should require any workers who are ill to stay home to prevent possible spread to other employees.

Businesses must put protections in place

The State of Minnesota says that every business that reopens must produce a Preparedness Plan that sets out the company's infection prevention measures, cleaning and disinfecting protocols, efforts to identify and isolate sick employees, and implement social distancing for workers.

Non-essential retail businesses are for now only allowed to operate at 50 percent of their maximum legal occupancy for their premises. 

Businesses are being told to follow safe work guidelines from the Department of Health, and the federal CDC and OSHA.

And the state is calling on businesses to be flexible with its sick leave policies, for example not requiring a doctor's note for anyone suffering respiratory symptoms, and are also being encouraged to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members.

"Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual."

And there are protections for people who feel unsafe at work

The executive orders issued by Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday included one that protects workers from retaliation if they're not happy with the safety measures in place at their place of employment.

This states the following: 

1. Employers must not discriminate or retaliate in any way against a worker communicating orally or in writing with management personnel about occupational safety or health matters related to COVID19, including asking questions or expressing concerns.

2. Employers must not discriminate or retaliate in any way against any worker for wearing gloves, a cloth face covering, eye protection, or other protective gear which the worker has personally procured and reasonably believes will protect them, their coworkers or the public against COVID-19 in the course of their work, provided it doesn't violate industry standards or employer policies.

3. Workers have the right to refuse to work under conditions that they, in good faith, reasonably believe present an imminent danger of death or serious physical harm. This includes a reasonable belief that they have been assigned to work in an unsafe or unhealthful manner with an infectious agent such as COVID-19. Employers must not discriminate or retaliate in any way against a worker for the worker’s good faith refusal to perform assigned tasks if the worker has asked the employer to correct the hazardous conditions but they remain uncorrected. Infractions should be reported to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI).

4. Workers and authorized representatives of workers have the right to request that DLI conduct an inspection of their workplace if they believe that a violation of a safety or health standard that threatens physical harm exists or that an imminent danger exists. Employers can't retaliate against them for this.

You can find more information here.

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