Dismissed for not receiving the Covid vaccine? You May Not Get Unemployed – Forbes Adviser
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At some point early in your career, a coworker shares a tidbit in a break room that you will remember forever. You mention that if you quit your job you will be financially on your own. But if you get fired, you can get unemployment benefits to bridge the gap until you find your next paycheck.
That may be true in some cases. But there is one big, new exception that could block your unemployment benefit entitlement: You will be fired for not being vaccinated against Covid-19.
Here’s what you need to know if your employer has a vaccination policy and you decide not to.
Can you get unemployed if you get laid off for not receiving the Covid vaccine?
In short, probably not. If an employer fires you for not following their policy, it has a “reason” to fire you. And if you are made redundant “for an important reason”, you may not be entitled to unemployment benefits.
“Every state defines ‘for good reason’ differently,” Mariel Smith, associate at law firm Hall Booth Smith, PC. “Most states have similar laws that state that an employee who is fired for violating company policies will be denied unemployment benefits.”
“For example, in Texas, you can be denied unemployment if you voluntarily quit or are quit for related misconduct,” said Carrie Hoffman, partner at the law firm Foley & Lardner, LLP. “Employers could argue that denial of the vaccine was voluntary resignation or involuntary termination for misconduct.”
When it comes down to it, vaccination regulations are just another workplace guideline.
Equal Opportunities Commission Guidance Concerning the Covid-19 vaccination means that an employer can require its employees to be vaccinated. But it must also accommodate those who apply for exemptions because of an illness or religious practice.
“If you’re fired and you’ve got a medical or religious exemption, that’s a problem,” said Mariel Smith, partner at Hall Booth Smith PC law firm. “You could potentially bring an illegal dismissal lawsuit and prosecute unemployment.”
However, once your employer’s vaccination policy and implications are clear, it is best not to expect any margin if you are fired and trying to apply for unemployment.
“I warn employees against the idea that if they stay and get fired, they can become unemployed. It’s very risky, ”explains Smith.
Some states have made it clear that those fired for not following vaccination guidelines are unlikely to receive benefits. Oregon is an example of a state that has required health, education, and government personnel to get vaccinated. The state Labor Department head said eligibility will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but those fired by public or private employers for refusing to be vaccinated are unlikely to be eligible.
In neighboring Washington, a vaccination mandate for government employees, healthcare workers, and education workers has been criticized for not clearing whether employees will stick to becoming unemployed.
Attempts to change state laws have largely stalled
Legislators in several states have proposed making vaccination discrimination illegal and guaranteeing access to unemployment benefits if an employee fails to follow their employer’s vaccination guidelines.
Tennessee saw such a bill in its Senate February 2021 Prevent discrimination based on vaccination status. The bill would also grant access to unemployment benefits to unvaccinated people who choose to quit their jobs, but it does has not yet been taken into account in the committee.
In Idaho, the House passed a law banning discrimination based on vaccination status. He has not been picked up in the Senate, where he has been sitting since February.
An invoice in Michigans The House of Representatives would prohibit employers from discriminating against workers who fail to be vaccinated. It was introduced in March but not taken into account in the committee.
In January 2021, Alaska The General Assembly has tabled a bill that bans compulsory vaccinations in the workplace. Arizona, wanted to ban vaccination status as a condition of employment, but the proposal died in committee February.
Smith says such laws are unlikely to be passed to protect workers who refuse to be vaccinated.
“If these kinds of laws are actually passed, it goes against the very basic principles of labor law that if you get fired for a compelling reason, you won’t get unemployed,” she says.