Q: We have been asked to return to work, but we do not believe the company has taken enough precautions to make it safe to work there. Can I remain on unemployment?

-T.C., San Pedro

Ron Sokol

A: Employers have a basic obligation to maintain a safe working environment. Today, with the coronavirus pandemic, there are further guidelines to be addressed. An employer who meets its responsibility to provide a safe working environment can expect employees to return. At present, it is difficult to predict the outcome if the work environment is genuinely not safe. You have an argument for continued unemployment, or you could assert that you have been constructively discharged. The employer will likely have a problem if it is does not do what is needed to provide a safe working environment. Bottom line: very serious issues are raised by your question. Thus, consult promptly with qualified counsel to assess the circumstances.

Q: If there are unsafe work conditions, who do I contact?

-B.A., Pasadena

A: You can file a formal complaint with Cal OSHA for investigation. Information: dir.ca.gov/dosh/complaint.htm .

Q: I am back at work after a furlough related to the pandemic, during which I collected unemployment. Now my job is different, and my work shift has changed. These make it impossible for me to continue. Do I have any rights?

-V.H., Costa Mesa

A: You may be able to turn down the work, and continue to qualify for unemployment, if indeed the company has drastically changed the way you do your job. For example, if you receive a significant pay cut, or permanent modification to your assigned shift, or you are moved to a facility that requires a far longer and unreasonable commute. As with the first question above, the recommended and prudent choice is to immediately consult with qualified counsel if your company will not budge.

Ron Sokol is a Manhattan Beach attorney with more than 35 years of experience. His column, which appears in print on Wednesdays, presents a summary of the law and should not be construed as legal advice. Email questions and comments to him at RonSEsq@aol.com or write to him at Ask the Lawyer, Daily Breeze, 400 Continental Blvd, Suite 600, El Segundo, CA, 90245.

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.