- The governors of Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have signed laws in recent weeks that allow workers to collect unemployment benefits if they are fired for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
- Lawmakers in other Republican-led states could do the same next year.
- The Biden administration’s national vaccine mandate for large employers is being challenged in court.
Some states are making it easier for Americans to collect unemployment benefits if they are fired without being vaccinated against COVID-19.
The governors of Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee signed laws in recent weeks that change eligibility rules for jobless benefits. Workers in these states who lose jobs due to workplace refusal to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate are now eligible for benefits.
This is in contrast to specific state regulations, which typically result in workers being fired for failing to comply with certain workplace policies, whether related to vaccine requirements or mandatory drug tests, for example, according to labor experts. .
Three states (Florida, Iowa and Tennessee) are governed by Republican governors. The governor of Kansas is a Democrat.
Republican lawmakers in other state houses, including Arkansas, New York and Wisconsin, have introduced similar bills since September, according to a national convention of state legislatures. database,
"I wouldn't be surprised if others do, especially when the legislature is back in session. [next year], according to Andrew Stetner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.
The move comes as several US employers are weighing workplace vaccine mandates and as fears grow over the Omicron virus variant.
Nearly 57% of large businesses require or plan to have COVID-19 vaccinations for employees, according to a survey published Tuesday by consulting firm, Willis Towers Watson. However, more than half of them will go ahead only when the Biden administration vaccine rule goes into effect.
The Biden administration rule requires businesses with at least 100 employees to ensure that employees are vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test on a weekly basis. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration suspended enforcement and implementation of the measure after a federal appeals court ordered it pending review.
The rule was to take effect on January 4. President Joe Biden on Thursday asked businesses to voluntarily proceed with requirements.
"Simply put, a delay in the norm is likely to result in a large number of hospitalizations, other serious health effects and exorbitant costs, in addition to many lives per day," the Justice Department said in a court filing. "It is a confluence of losses of the highest order."
Some Republican officials have sought to reverse the policy, arguing that it infringes on individual liberties.
“I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19 and we have provided Iovans with the information they need to determine what is best for them and their family, but No Evan should be forced to lose his job or livelihood over the Covid-19 vaccine," Iowa Gov. kim reynolds said After the signing of the law on October 29 amending unemployment rules.
In addition to easing rules for collecting benefits, new state laws also generally make it easier for employees to qualify for certain exemptions from the workplace vaccine mandate.
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States typically require businesses to allow exemptions from certain workplace rules for medical or religious reasons.
Workers who qualify for the exemption have legal protection from being fired for non-compliance with the vaccine mandate.
Those who didn't qualify for an exemption and have been fired are now eligible for income support through unemployment benefits.
According to Alexa Tapia, unemployment insurance campaign coordinator for the National Employment Law Project, the policy runs in contrast to states' actions in the summer relative to unemployment benefits.
Florida, Iowa and Tennessee were among 26 states that moved to cut federal unemployment benefits just months before the end of their official Labor Day. He argued that the benefits were contributing to the labor shortage by incentivizing recipients not to seek work. (Data in subsequent months showed that this was largely not the case.)
Tapia said the new unemployment laws are sending the opposite message by offering financial incentives to people who lose their jobs because of the need for a vaccine.