Some Alabama business owners report difficulty hiring during COVID-19 pandemic

Local News

RIVERSIDE, Ala. (WIAT) — Some area businesses are hiring as doors begin to open again, but multiple owners tell CBS 42 employees are refusing to return to work.

At the Ark Restaurant in Riverside, owner Shirley Abts said it broke her heart when she had to tell employees the business was forced to change due to COVID-19.

“When they tell you you have to close and you can do nothing but to-go orders, that means you don’t need servers, you don’t need dishwashers, you don’t even need the same number of cooks in the kitchen,” said Abts.

Abts said the community came out in numbers to support the eatery and remaining employees. Now that it is open again, she is struggling to get workers to come back. She estimated she was down about 4 or 5 employees.

“We had one girl that worked here for a week before we had to shut down. As soon as we were able to re-hire and we had money to do that, we called her, text her, finally got her to call us back. She’s like, ‘no I’m not coming back, I’m making more being on unemployment,” said Abts.

For several weeks now, Abts has posted about various job openings on several outlets, including social media. With additional sanitation requirements for restaurants, many owners are looking to fill positions.

Other area eateries, convenience stores, and retail shops have also posted job openings to social media and reported difficulty finding applicants.

“Even though we have less tables, we have so many more things to do, you still need the extra help,” said Abts.

A spokesperson for The Alabama Department of Labor said the agency has received complaints about refusals to work. Some may be covered under the CARES Act.

“The CARES Act did provide for approximately 10 exceptions for the normal refusal to work, all of those exceptions are COVID related, so there could be some instances where employees do not have to return,” said Tara Hutchison, the Communications Director for ADOL.

For refusals that are not covered under the CARES Act, employers are encouraged to report incidents on the ADOL website, here.

“The employer should take necessary steps to let us know so that we can disqualify those employees who are not returning due to valid work related reasons,” said Hutchison.

Hutchison shared a few common examples of exceptions.

“Obviously if the worker themselves has been diagnosed with COVID and is under quarantine. If they have an immediate family member who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and they are kin to them, also one that is affecting a lot of people is they have children whose school or day care has been closed, and so they are unable to work because they have no childcare, which normally would not be a covered reason,” Hutchison said.

ADOL continues to investigate complaints of possible unemployment benefit fraud.

Business owners like Abts hope they’ll be able to recruit additional workers for the usually-busy summer season.

“You almost need the same amount of people even though you’re only doing half of the money,” said Abts.

For more information on the CARES Act, click here.

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