Can You Get Unemployment After Losing Your Job for Refusing the COVID-19 Vaccine?

From big corporations such as Disney and Google to healthcare providers and even airline services, a growing number of companies are mandating COVID-19 vaccines for employees as the rapidly spreading Delta variant is led to another surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, specifically among the unvaccinated. However, these vaccine requirements have been met with opposition – with some employees quitting or filing lawsuits. 

Furthermore, many workers who are reluctant to get vaccinated believe they may qualify for unemployment benefits if they are fired for their persistent refusal. Yet, many employment and labor experts say, in most states, employees who do not comply with a company’s policy to get vaccinated are generally ineligible for unemployment benefits. 

Unemployment benefits are provided to American workers who are not at fault for losing their jobs. On the other hand, if an employee is fired for failing to company policy that applied to the entire workforce—no matter how big or small—and received the same treatment as their peers, such benefits can be denied because this type of action is considered misconduct. 

For example, if a company enforces a dress code requiring employees to wear a tie and a worker knowingly and intentionally refuses to comply with the dress code, he/she could be terminated for insubordination, which is viewed as misconduct and likely disqualifies that worker from receiving unemployment benefits. 

Additionally, there are many past examples of similar employer mandates, like healthcare providers requiring employees to get their flu shots or get tested for Tuberculosis, which has occurred for decades. 

According to guidelines from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers are allowed to require employees who are physically in the workplace to get vaccinated, so long as such requirements comply with federal and state workplace laws. In addition, there is no federal law that prohibits companies from requiring vaccines. 

There are two exemptions to workplace vaccine mandates: medical and religious exemptions. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for workers who qualify for these exemptions.  

If an employee is fired for refusing a vaccine for one of these reasons, they may still be eligible for unemployment benefits, so long as they can provide proof. Employers determine if such exemptions apply on a case-by-case basis. 

If you are dealing with an employment law issue in California, contact Polaris Law Group today at (888) 796-4010 for more information about our experienced legal services. Serving clients in Redding, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Oakland, San Francisco, the Bay Area, Stockton & Modesto, Pleasanton, Redwood City, San Jose, the Silicon Valley, Hollister, Salinas, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Santa Clarita, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange County, and San Diego. 

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