Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

A staff member at a restaurant on North High Street takes out the trash on March 15, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio. Restaurants in the state remain closed for the time being, but with some industries opening up, the Ohio Labor Department is calling on employers to "report" workers who don't come to work due to the coronavirus. (Photo: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

'About As Evil As It Gets': As State Reopens, Ohio Urges Employers to Snitch on Workers Who Stay Home Due to Covid-19 Concerns

Less than a week after some industries reopened, about 1,200 workers across the state have been reported to the government. 

Julia Conley

Ohio officials are encouraging employers to report what they've designated "Covid-19 fraud" as the state begins reopening some industries. Workers who refuse to report to work in light of the pandemic, which has killed more than 1,300 Ohio residents so far, can be reported via a government website and have their unemployment benefits taken away.

According to the Washington Post, less than a week after the state reopened manufacturing and distribution facilities, construction, and offices, 600 employers have "turned in" about 1,200 workers for not reporting to work.

"'Turned in' is a really fucked up way to even begin thinking about this," tweeted labor journalist Sarah Jaffe in response to the Post's report.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services set up a website this week where employers may use a form "to report employees who quit or refuse work when it is available due to Covid-19."

With retail stores expected to reopen on Monday, employees in that sector  could be reported as early as next week for not returning to work.

In an email sent to employers across Ohio, officials told companies that "Ohio law prohibits individuals from receiving unemployment benefits if they refuse to accept offers of suitable work, or quit work, without good cause."

By designating a deadly public health crisis an insufficient cause for staying home, as health experts have consistently urged for nearly two months, the Ohio government is giving residents a "near-impossible choice," according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. 

Ohio workers must now choose between "going to work and earning income to put food on the table, and protecting their health," senior policy analyst Alex Camardelle told the Post. 

Critics on social media accused Ohio officials of encouraging employers to "snitch" on workers for following the recommendations of public health officials.

Other Republican-led states have also aggressively pressured workers to report to their jobs with threats of having unemployment benefits taken away. As Common Dreams reported last month, Iowa officials are designating failure to report to businesses in reopened industries as a "voluntary quit," while Texas's reopening order carried the same message. 

The Century Foundation, a progressive and non-partisan think tank, noted that the focus on so-called "Covid-19 fraud" in Republican-led states stems from a fixation at the U.S. Department of Labor on rooting out workers who are using unemployment benefits when work is available to them. According to the Labor Department, nearly 90% of people who received unemployment benefits in Ohio between 2016 and 2019 used the system correctly.

"The driving activity of the U.S. Department of Labor for the last six to seven years has been unemployment fraud," Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the foundation, told The American Prospect.

Ohio's website represents a "bright flashing light of 'fraud, fraud, fraud' that for me is just like another example of the system's overemphasis on unemployment fraud, rather than making sure we pay people who are out of work," he added.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Outrageous and Shameful': Dems May Cut Paid Leave Due to Manchin's Opposition

Decrying the plan, advocacy groups vowed that "the American people are not going to allow that essential human need to be ignored and negotiated away behind closed doors."

Jessica Corbett ·


Open Letter Warns Trump's 'Big Lie' GOP Poses Existential Threat to Democracy

"Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the republic."

Brett Wilkins ·


Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo