Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

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.

Please select a donation method:

'A Very Serious Threat': CDC Document Warns Delta Variant Is as Contagious as Chickenpox

"People need to understand that we're not crying wolf here," said the CDC director. "It's one of the most transmissible viruses we know about."

Jake Johnson ·


As Biden Refuses to Act, Dems Make Last-Minute Push to Extend Eviction Moratorium

"If the administration won't act to extend the national eviction moratorium that expires on Saturday, we must," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

Jake Johnson ·


Poll: Overwhelming Majority of US Voters Want Robust Regulation of Tech Companies

"When it comes to Big Tech's monopoly power and surveillance business model, the public is unified: They want action. They want to see the Big Tech companies broken up and users' privacy protected."

Brett Wilkins ·


228 Republicans Blasted for Brief Urging Supreme Court to Overturn Roe v. Wade

"Every single politician who signed this amicus brief is actively working to strip away our fundamental freedoms and endanger pregnant people and families across the country."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Historic Victory': Bayer to End US Residential Sales of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides

"As agricultural, large-scale use of this toxic pesticide continues, our farmworkers remain at risk. It's time for EPA to act and ban glyphosate for all uses."

Kenny Stancil ·