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Fired for refusing the vaccine?  Don’t count on unemployment benefits

Workers made redundant for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to apply for unemployment benefits.

Not being eligible for government assistance if you lose your job because you haven’t been vaccinated is another indicator that the cost of giving up the vaccine is rising in the United States.

Vaccination mandates are quickly becoming the norm in businesses large and small across the United States as employers take steps to ensure their workplaces are safe and their workers are protected from COVID- 19.

Workers are generally entitled to unemployment benefits if they are dismissed through no fault of their own. But experts say they forgo those benefits if they quit a job of their own accord or are fired for just cause, such as because they haven’t complied with company policy. .

You are disqualified

“Usually if you do something wrong, do something wrong, violate company policy, you can no longer collect unemployment benefits,” said Jason Habinsky, president of New York law firm Haynes Boone. “If you go alone or if you are made redundant for any reason, you are not eligible.”

Likewise, violating a company’s COVID-19 vaccination policy in most cases prevents a worker from receiving help.

“Failure to comply with a vaccination warrant is like failing to comply with any other employer-related policy. In general, this is one reason an agency would deny benefits from unemployment insurance, ”Habinsky added.

Labor departments in each state review unemployment claims on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the circumstances and the basis for an employee’s termination. The New York State Department of Labor makes it clear on its website that workers in healthcare facilities, schools, and nursing homes who quit or are fired for refusing the vaccine will not be eligible for benefits. unemployment, unless they are eligible for a medical Where religious exemption from office.

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State directives indicate that “these are workplaces where an employer has a compelling interest in such a mandate, especially if he already needs other vaccinations.”

In other circumstances, however, an unvaccinated worker who is made redundant may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance “if that person’s work is not exposed to the public and the worker has a compelling reason to refuse to work. comply with the guideline, “according to the NYS Department of Labor. website.

The Washington State Department of Employment Security said it would take various factors into account when assessing claims for unemployment benefits from workers made redundant because they did not comply with the requirements. vaccination from their employer.

These factors include:

  • Whether the employee is eligible for other benefits
  • The specific terms of the vaccination policy and its derogations
  • The reason why the employee did not respect the vaccination mandate

If the employer complied with the law and allowed exemptions for workers with medical conditions or with sincere religious beliefs that interfere with vaccination, but found that the employee was not entitled to an accommodation, the request of that individual would likely be rejected, according to the ministry. .

“Maybe it would be a different situation if someone were made redundant because they had received a religious exemption or a medical exemption. In that case, maybe you could see someone qualify for benefits in state function, ”said Helen Rella. , labor lawyer at the New York law firm Wilk Auslander.

Some caveats, exceptions

A worker who was denied unemployment benefits after being made redundant for giving up the vaccine could successfully challenge the denial if their employer did not have an official vaccination policy in place or enforced it in a way. uniform.

“Agencies will look at a range of factors and very often will look for reasons for paying unemployment benefits, including whether the employer actually had a policy, was the employee aware of the policy, the employer is enforcing Did the policy apply uniformly to all employees or was that person just chosen to enforce the policy. All of these reasons could tip the needle the other way, ”Habinsky said.

Those qualified for reasonable accommodation for medical or religious reasons would also be protected and probably eligible for unemployment benefits if they had been made redundant or suspended without pay.

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“In this case, you have a stronger argument that you would get some benefits while looking for a new job compatible with your condition. But these are really the only caveats that exist,” the labor lawyer said. from San Diego, Daniel Eaton.

Apart from these conditions, exceptions are rare.

“The general proposition is that it is legal for an employer to require the vaccine and therefore if an employee does not get it, it is a choice,” said Domenique Camacho Moran, labor lawyer at the law firm. New York-based Farrell Fritz. “It’s like saying, ‘I don’t want this job, thank you.’ It’s treated as a voluntary stoppage. “

Eaton provided another analogy: “It’s like your employer saying, ‘Come in at 9 a.m. and you say,’ Thanks for sharing, I’m coming at 11 a.m. ‘ If you engage in willful misconduct like this, you will not be entitled to unemployment benefits which are designed to be paid to those who are separated through no fault of their own, “he said.