Back in November of 2021, Kimberly Gonzales called the Center for Workers’ Rights looking for help with her Unemployment Insurance claim. A restaurant worker on tribal lands, Ms. Gonzales took time off of work in May of 2020 due to being at high risk for the Covid-10 virus and because her workplace was not covered by safety requirements, such as social distancing, required in the rest of the state..
Ms. Gonzales was eventually found ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits at the height of the pandemic, despite having contracted the Covid once she did return to work. EDD determined that Ms. Gonzales was not “able and available to work during the height of the pandemic, given her desire to seek work that did not expose her to COVID. This determination runs counter to the purpose of unemployment insurance benefits, and the expanded benefits enacted at the height of the pandemic through the CARES Act, which sought to allow workers at risk for COVID to abide by shelter in place advisories.
EDD’s narrow interpretation of “able and available” given the circumstances of restaurant workers during the pandemic puts lives at risk. CWR will continue to advocate for Ms. Gonzalez, and others who are being found ineligible for benefits two years into the pandemic, to prevent her from having to return the funds she was paid.