Can you get unemployment benefits if you quit your job because of COVID-19 concerns?


DETROIT (NewsNation Now) — When 22-year-old Derick Lancaster took a job as a delivery driver for an Amazon service partner, he thought it was a blessing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but when some co-workers tested positive for coronavirus, he said his dream job became more of a nightmare.

“I was just fed up with them. It was bad service and it was during the pandemic so I was just like, I got to go,” he said.

Lancaster said there was limited personal protective equipment available in the summer. So, on June 29, he decided to quit in the middle of his shift.

“They wasn’t wiping stuff down. It wasn’t enough masks in there then. They wasn’t taking temperatures,” said Lancaster.

He posted about it on Twitter saying:

I quit amazon f*** that driving s*** i left the van on 12 mile and Southfield y’all can have that b**** and it’s full of gas wit the keys in the IGNITION .

@_lilderick on Twitter

That post went viral with more than 218,000 likes, 21,500 retweets and growing.

“I think I sent a message to them that they need to get it together or a lot of people are going to end up doing what I do. Hopefully not in that fashion,” Lancaster said.

8 months later, he is still without a job and does not receive unemployment benefits — which he said he deserves.

Amazon Spokesperson Maria Boschetti released this statement:

“Nothing’s more important than the health and safety of our employees and partners, and we’re doing everything we can to support them through the pandemic. In 2020, we invested $11.5 billion in safety measures and equipment in our buildings, including masks, temperature screening, plexiglas shields, sanitizing products, additional cleaning teams, and even an on-site testing program. We’ve also made over 150 significant process changes to make sure we’re keeping our team safe throughout each day, including new social distancing measures and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing across every site. “


Because of Amazon’s efforts, NewsNation discovered Lancaster can only qualify for unemployment in the state of Michigan, if he can prove “good cause.”

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity says if an employee does not have an underlying medical condition and an employer is taking steps to create a safer workplace and are following MI OSHA guidance, the Governor’s Executive Orders, and the MI Safe Start plan, then the employee probably will not be eligible for unemployment benefits if they choose to quit. 

It’s a rule put in place to prevent unemployment fraud. This rules varies state to state.

The CARES Act law extends the range of “good cause” possibilities to include reasons related to COVID-19, like needing to self-quarantine for an immune-compromised relative, family care responsibilities or medical complication.

Recently the Biden administration issued an executive order to “consider clarifying that workers who refuse unsafe working conditions can still receive unemployment insurance.”

No word yet on that final outcome.

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