As American businesses begin to reopen after strict government shutdowns aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), many employers are encountering employees who refuse to return to work. Whatever the motivation – high unemployment benefits, family benefits or fear of infection – it is important for employers and employees to understand their rights… and consequences.
Layoff v. Furlough
First, at the onset of the government restrictions, many employers were faced with a decision to either layoff or furlough employees. A layoff is an involuntary separation between an employer and an employee that occurs through no fault of the employee. Typically, layoffs occur when there is not enough work. A furlough is considered to be an alternative to a layoff. It can be administered in different ways, such as a reduction in work hours or a requirement for the employee to take a certain amount of unpaid time off. However, unlike a layoff, the furloughed worker remains an employee. As such, a furlough is akin to an unpaid leave of absence. The employee is guaranteed working hours once business resumes.