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Labor secretary explains what happens to employees who receive unemployment and refuse to return

By on May 13, 2020

SAN JUAN – The secretary of the Department of Labor and Human Resources (DTRH), Briseida Torres Reyes, spoke Wednesday about the situation that some employers face when asking employees who are receiving unemployment benefits to return, but these they refuse.

“If you are currently receiving unemployment benefits and are called to work, you have to report it (to the Department of Labor) because you cannot be receiving the unemployment benefit,” the Labor secretary said at a press conference.

“If you are called to work, then you are voluntarily out of work. If you are at home voluntarily, either remotely or your employer is exempt (from the Executive Order) and is called to work, the benefit is eliminated,” she added.

Torres Reyes mentioned that employers are also supposed to inform the agency if this situation has happened to them. She explained that at the moment there was an employee in charge of attending to these claims from the employers, but a system will soon be set up so that this report is made automatically.

The official confirmed that, in a case like this, if due process is followed, that action constitutes a justified dismissal.

On the other hand, she mentioned that there are 52,626 claims from people who do not qualify for the unemployment benefit.

“This is largely due to self-employed workers who made their claims when they were not due. Or employees without income in the corresponding quarters (it is assumed that an employee qualifies for unemployment as soon as they complete two quarters in the position) or lack of employment history,” she said.

She explained that some of those cases are evaluated to see whether they qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). For this program, about 90,000 requests have been received, but the department has only attended, since May 4 about 3,000, manually. The process, after being registered in the system, takes two to three weeks to complete.

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