Workers who quit or leave their jobs due to a lack of safey measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should be eligible for unemployment benefits, a pair of state lawmakers said on Friday.
The lawmakers, Sens. Brad Hoylman and Jessica Ramos, are introducing a bill that would allow those workers to receive unemployment benefits.
The legislation comes as the national unemployment rate on Friday stands at 14.7 percent, though is likely higher given the deluge of applications for benefits that are yet to be confirmed.
“Across the country and even in our own district, we have seen large employers put profits before the health and safety of their workers. No worker should have to put their own life or their family’s life at risk just to make a living," Ramos said in a statement. "By incentivizing employers to protect their workers with PPE, proper testing and isolation measures, we will make sure workers have the fundamental right to healthy workplaces and necessary access to unemployment benefits should they choose to leave their jobs due to hazardous work environments."
The bill would allow workers who have quit due to safety issues to be eligible benefits, along with furlough workers who have declined to return to work if they are concerned it is unsafe to do so.
The measure would also cover those who are fired for not working or leaving a job due to unsafe conditions.
“New York is the epicenter of a global pandemic, and public health experts are urging us all to stay safe by saying home," Hoylman said. "Going to work every day shouldn’t be a game of Russian Roulette. It’s absolutely outrageous to force New Yorkers to choose between risking their life or losing their job. This legislation will ensure that no one is forced to expose themselves to a deadly virus simply to pay rent or put food on the table. New York State must stand up for workers—especially when it’s clear their employers won’t.”