Fired for refusing a Covid vaccine? You likely can’t get unemployment benefits

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  • Businesses are increasingly requiring their employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
  • Employers such as ChristianaCare, Northwell Health, Novant Health, UCHealth Systems and United Airlines have fired (or are set to fire) hundreds of illiterate workers. Kaiser Permanente put more than 2,200 on unpaid leave.
  • According to labor experts, such workers are probably not eligible for unemployment benefits. But there may be some exceptions.

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As businesses and lawmakers increasingly require workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, thousands of holdouts are losing their jobs – and they cannot possibly collect unemployment benefits.

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However, according to employment experts, there may be exceptions depending on the status of the worker. Some state legislatures are trying to change their rules altogether.

“If you don’t want to be vaccinated, don’t have religious or disability exemptions, and you lose your job, chances are you’ll be found ineligible for unemployment compensation,” said Christopher Moran, a fellow at the law and employment attorney at the firm. Troutman Paper Hamilton Sanders.


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Northwell Health, the largest health care provider in New York, recently End 1,400 illiterate workers. christiana carehandjob Novant Health And UCHealth Systems — Health providers in Delaware, North Carolina and Colorado, respectively — cut more than 100 workers.

United Airlines is also ready to lay off about 600 illiterate employees. and Kaiser Permanente, which is based in California, said On Tuesday, it put more than 2,200 employees on unpaid leave across the country.

(In all of these cases, affected employees represent a small portion of the companies overall workforce.)

The issue could soon affect many more people – about 46% of organizations plan to establish vaccine mandates, according to Survey Consulting firm Gartner published last month.

The US Department of Labor is also expected to soon issue rules mandating vaccines (or routine COVID testing) among businesses with at least 100 employees. There is also the White House is needed Vaccines for all federal workers, contractors who work for the federal government and health care workers at facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, earlier this year, 28% of working Americans said they would not get a COVID vaccine, even if it cost them their job. (The group surveyed 1,000 people in January and February.)

benefits of unemployment

Workers qualify for unemployment benefits in cases of “qualified job severance,” according to Anne Paxton, an attorney and policy director at the Unemployment Law Project, which represents individuals in appeal cases when their benefits have been denied. Is.

States differ somewhat in their definitions. “In most cases, employees can collect benefits after being fired, leaving a job for a “good cause,” or being fired for a reason other than “misconduct,” Paxton said.

However, a labor agency would likely consider refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate as “misconduct”, she said. Losing one’s job as a result would likely disqualify a worker from benefits (if the denial was not made for a medical or religious reason).

Similarly, quitting to avoid a mandate would also not be seen as a “good reason”.

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“I think the general consensus is very strong that employers are within their rights to protect workplace safety, and employees are not within their rights to refuse to comply,” she said.

But there are variables and gray areas, which can vary by state, she said.

For example, an employee who is exempt from his or her vaccine requirement for a religious or medical reason may not be fired, but may be placed on unpaid leave. Since they received a valid exemption, a labor agency can approve a claim for benefits.

“I think in that scenario you’d probably be eligible,” Moran said.

state labor agencies

In fact, the language of the state’s labor bureau shudders in some other respects.

“Some individuals may still qualify based on their unique circumstances,” According to the Washington State Department of Employment Security.

Washington officials will weigh factors such as when the employer adopted the vaccine requirement, the specific terms of the vaccine policy, and the reason the employee did not comply with the mandate. (If an employee does not qualify for religious or medical accommodations, their unemployment claim “will be denied,” the agency said.)

I think the general consensus is very strong that employers are within their rights to protect workplace safety, and employees are not within their rights to refuse compliance.
anne paxton
Lawyer and Policy Director at the Unemployment Law Project

The New York State Department of Labor website takes a similar position. Employees who decline an employer’s instruction to comply may be eligible for benefits “in certain cases if that person has no public performance of work and the employee has a compelling reason to refuse to comply with the instruction.” The reason is “Bureau said.

However, by contrast, New York public employees and workers in health care facilities, nursing homes or schools would be disqualified (in the absence of a valid exemption) “because these are workplaces where an employer is required to have a mandate in such a way.” attractive interest, especially if they already require other vaccinations,” the bureau said.

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee Legislation Earlier this year to allow workers who left their jobs because of a vaccine requirement to take unemployment benefits. Other state legislatures, such as idaho And MichiganTrying to cancel the termination based solely on the status of the vaccine. (These measures have not been successful so far.)

Montana Gov. Greg Gianfort Put signature on A law in May banning vaccine requirements among employers.


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