Not comfortable returning to work? Employees can still get federal, not state, benefits

Posted at 6:18 AM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 07:20:03-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Many Tennesseans are headed back to work as the state’s economy slowly reopens amid the COVID-19 pandemic. If you don’t feel comfortable going back to work just yet, you can still receive federal benefits.

Employees who don’t feel comfortable going back to work can still get pandemic unemployment insurance from the federal government, which is $600 a week. However, they won’t get state benefits.

Some businesses have been pushing Congress for their own legal protections, such as expanding workers’ compensation for those who decide to go back to work and end up getting the virus on the job.

"The tradeoff is, if a worker gets injured on the job, they have workers' compensation coverage, and the benefit to the employer is if a worker is injured on the job, there's not this liability determination. There's not this negligence claim. There's not this lawsuit. It's just workers compensation," said Christine Lamb, partner and founder of Fortis Law Partners.

For example, large clusters of COVID-19 cases were reported at the Tyson Plants in Shelbyville and Goodlettsville. Those facilities were deep-cleaned and then reopened – but days later, President Trump ordered them to remain open no matter what.

Legal experts say they expect to see a spike in complaints as people get back to work. They say businesses should have safety plans and make sure their employees know about them.

Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Lee is still asking those who can work from home to continue to do so.