Lost your job because of not getting vaccinated? You may still not be eligible for unemployment.

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Vaccine requirements may disqualify you from unemployment benefits if you do not have a valid exemption.

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Employees who do not comply with their company’s vaccine requirements will generally be ineligible to collect unemployment benefits, but this is changing in a few states: Iowa, Tennessee, Florida and Kansas.

As vaccination mandates continue across the United States at both federal and state levels, there are numerous legal challenges. Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals barred President Joe Biden’s far-reaching vaccine mandate for large private employers, prompting the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to seek further legal action. Suspended And this week, the national vaccine mandate for healthcare workers, scheduled to begin on December 6, was suspended after an initial restraining order was issued by a federal judge.

Although qualifying for unemployment after you have been fired or resigned because of a vaccine mandate is still an emerging issue – and largely settled by case – four Republican-led states have Steps are taken to benefit employees who refuse. Vaccines Other states have very different views. New York, for example, explicitly disqualifies health care workers from unemployment benefits if they leave or are terminated for not complying with immunization requirements.

“Because each state has its own unemployment insurance law, two different states may have the opposite results,” said Jacob Corder, a Labor and employment attorney in New York. And although employers are required by law to provide specific vaccine exemptions, ie for medical or religious reasons, they are also being interpreted differently by the state.

About 5% of non-vaccinated workers in the United States have already left their jobs beyond the mandate. Numerous studies have shown that the COVID-19 vaccine is extremely effective in preventing severe disease and death and remains an important tool in helping to control the epidemic. Would you still be eligible for unemployment insurance if you rejected the shot? We will explain how refusing to be vaccinated can affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits.

What is unemployment insurance?

Unemployment insurance, or UI, is a state federal program designed to provide temporary income support for those who lose their jobs without making a mistake. UI benefits are monitored by the federal government, but each state manages its own unemployment program and sets eligibility requirements.

Who is eligible to collect unemployment insurance?

In normal times, according to the Department of Labor, you are eligible for UI benefits if you:

  1. Lose your job without making a mistake.
  2. Meet the work and wage requirements set by your state, as well as any additional state requirements.

In most cases, you will be denied the UI if you leave your job without a “good reason” or if you are fired for maladministration or non-compliance with employer policies.

Can you accumulate unemployment if you are fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine?

Not in most states, because if you are fired for refusing the COVID vaccine, it will be considered a “cause” dismissal.

Thomas Kohler, a law professor at Boston College, said, “The whole idea of ​​unemployment insurance is to lay off people for reasons that are not their own.” “If you have been fired for this reason, you do not get unemployment insurance. Of course, the big question is: what is the reason?”

Each state sets its own definition of “cause for cause.” And since there is no legal precedent or case law that attorneys, applicants and employers can use to guide future practice, many legal experts believe that unemployment claims are determined by the case. Will be done from

What are the other legal issues?

The important question lawyers are facing is whether the mandatory vaccination by the employer is a reasonable workplace policy. Can the government, state or federal, order private employers to determine the vaccine requirements for their employees? What will happen to government employees?

Elliott Rishovich, managing partner of Rise Law Firm in Los Angeles, told CNET back, “I think most of the time you know that policies are considered appropriate because the amount of scientific literature indicates that vaccines are safe.” October

But state legislators have “broadly diverse views on the vaccine mandate,” noted David Mellon, who represents the Employees Law Group in Torrance, California. And these ideas seem to run along biased lines. “It’s more of a political issue than a health or legal issue,” said Darren Ramak, a partner at the Clean Law Group in New York City.

When the federal vaccine mandate was announced in July, Republican lawmakers quickly began to step back, introducing laws to ban vaccination requirements or outlaw discrimination based on vaccine status. gone. Numerous lawsuits against the government’s mandate prevented much of it from being implemented across the country.

That said, even if a state does not enforce a vaccine mandate, a private employer can do so – except in states that explicitly bar companies from requiring vaccinated manpower. “Unless a state passes a law that states otherwise, even if a court prohibits the government from ordering private employers to vaccinate its employees,” Corder said. Private employers can also choose to do so. ”

In recent months, however, private employers have been reluctant to establish a vaccine mandate, according to Remack. “I see some reluctance to implement the mandate of these vaccines, due to the shortage of both the labor we are seeing now and all the legal uncertainty about it,” he said.

Now which states allow workers to submit UIs if they do not comply with the vaccine mandate?

Iowa, Tennessee, Florida and Kansas are now providing unemployment benefits to those who have been expelled for refusing to be vaccinated. The amended unemployment laws apply only to those who violate employers’ vaccine laws, not to any other company’s policy. A number of states, led by the GOP, which is considering similar legislation, were among those that cut off all federal unemployment programs prematurely during the summer.


Many employers require proof of vaccination to continue working.

Pacific Press / Getty Images

What about medical, religious or other exemptions?

If you have a valid medical or religious reason for not getting vaccinated, you may be able to reap the benefits of the UI, whether you quit or be fired. This is because employers must provide such exemptions under VII of the Civil Rights Act (which covers religious beliefs) and the American Disability Act of 1990 (which includes medical reasons). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the governing body that enforces anti-discrimination laws, provides guidance on this issue.

However, if you are eligible for a waiver for a disability or deep religious belief, an employer may have a defense against the payment of unemployment “if it could indicate that adopting a religious view is an unnecessary difficulty. It will happen, “Kohler said.

And exemption requests are not guaranteed. “No major religion forbids vaccination,” said Jack Tucker, a women’s rights advocate in the workplace and co-founder of Tucker, Sapper, Weinstock and Saper. He also noted that in the opinion of the CDC, medical exemptions are “a difficult battle” that “only those who should not be vaccinated should have a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, the first vaccine.” Immediately after a meal or as part of the COVID-19 vaccine. “

New laws in Iowa, Kansas, Florida and Tennessee make it easier to claim medical and religious immunity. And in Florida, an employee will be able to opt out of the vaccine on the basis of multiple exemptions, including demonstrating “immunity” or agreeing to periodic testing. In Iowa and Tennessee, employees are eligible to submit a UI if they refuse the vaccine, without claiming an exception.

How do I apply for benefits if I am fired for not getting vaccinated?

If your state has made vaccination mandatory for your industry and you have been fired for refusing to comply, you may not be eligible. You will want to see if there are any exemptions under state or company law that you are eligible for. You can apply for benefits by filing a claim with your state’s unemployment insurance program. You can find contact information for starting your claim here.

If you apply for unemployment benefits and the employer challenges your claim, you are likely to go to court. As such, you should contact a lawyer to pursue a claim or file an appeal.

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