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Heading back to work after being laid off? Here's what you need to know

Workers need to notify state regarding benefits
Posted at 5:26 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 18:17:16-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — An unemployed South Florida worker says persistence has finally paid off.

Jorge Soares of Boca Raton is ready to get back to work as a restaurant manager.

“I don’t want to depend on the state and the county to get money. I’m healthy … I want to go back and do my job,” said Soares.

He says it sometimes took hours to fill out one page to file for unemployment, and in the spaces for looking for work –- he simply wrote COVID-19.

“I did, all the answers. I put (COVID-19) because it was the truth ... My field, I’m a restaurant manager. There’s no place to work,” said Soares. “My mantra to those folks is patience and persistence”

He is getting unemployment benefits, but when he gets back to work, he'll be part of a group facing a new challenge with the state.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus | The Rebound South Florida | We're Open South Florida

Workers returning to their jobs in Florida as the state begins to reopen have a few things to know when it comes to responsibilities and rights.

“This is something we're all kind of working through, but all I can tell you is for certain, you can’t be collecting benefits and getting paid by your employer," said Arthur Schofield, a labor attorney in West Palm Beach.

Returning workers who are lucky enough to be collecting unemployment benefits need to notify the state they no longer need the benefits.

“At some point, when and if the state understands and finds out it's been paying benefits to an employee during a time they’re employed, that’s money they will seek to recoup,” Schofield says.

Another issue facing workers is deciding how safe they feel about going back to their jobs over fears about COVID-19.

“That’s an open question, and one we have to grapple with,” Schofield said. “If the work environment is such that the employee feels as though they’re exposing themselves to harm’s way, there may be a way to identify that as what we call in law, constructive discharge, meaning good reason not to go back to that employment setting, but that’s going to be a case by case basis.”