Nikolas Vegenas was a bartender at Apotheke Chinatown and Bar Meridian in Brooklyn. He tested positive for the virus in December. He tried to apply online and over the phone for unemployment benefits. The website “was supercomplicated,” he said. “I called them and waited on the phone, and they said I didn’t qualify.”
Asked whether restaurant workers who test positive for the virus are eligible for unemployment, a spokesman for New York State said: “Unemployment determinations are made on a case-by-case basis, but restaurant workers are eligible for unemployment under the same standards as every other worker.”
But Ms. Jayaraman noted that the state’s eligibility requirements for unemployment include being “ready, willing and able” to work, according to the New York labor department website, and specify that “you may not file for a week when you work more than 30 hours or earn more than $504 gross pay between Monday and Sunday.” This would make it difficult for anyone in isolation for just a week or so to qualify as “able” to work, or deem it worthwhile even to apply, she said.
It can be difficult to find information about unemployment benefits or best practices for restaurants. The New York Times reporter reached out to officials from both the city and the state to clarify their health guidance. He was directed back and forth between multiple departments over two days and left with a number of specific questions.
Olivia Sternberg was a server at Le Crocodile in Williamsburg. She tested positive just before Christmas and was given two weeks of paid sick leaves by the restaurant. She said that her managers and owners regularly checked in on her to see how she was doing.
While she felt a sense of relief from her employer, there are still concerns. Will customers want to eat indoors during yet another winter surge? What will happen to guests if vaccination requirements change?
“Here we go again,” she said.
Source: NY Times