COVID-19

Workers fired for refusing vaccination unlikely to qualify for unemployment

Caroline Champlin Aug 24, 2021
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine gave workplace mandates a stronger foundation. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Workers fired for refusing vaccination unlikely to qualify for unemployment

Caroline Champlin Aug 24, 2021
Heard on:
Full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine gave workplace mandates a stronger foundation. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandates are growing. Walmart, Disney, Google and Facebook all have some kind of requirement for employees working in person.

This week, President Joe Biden urged more businesses to set vaccine rules. Workers who refuse the shot and don’t get an exemption from their employers could be fired. And for them, unemployment benefits don’t look like an option.

Employer vaccine mandates are like other workplace-safety guidelines, said professor Dorit Reiss of the University of California Hastings College of the Law.

“You can’t tell the employer, ‘Sorry, I don’t like washing hands, so I’m going to ignore it,'” she said.

And if someone is fired for breaking workplace policies, that can be a problem if they file for unemployment.

“If an employee says, ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated,’ and they’re fired for it … they’re being fired for cause,” Reiss said. “That’s generally a barrier to collecting unemployment benefits.”

Whether those vaccine requirements are legal is not a completely settled question. There’s only one federal district court opinion on the issue so far, Reiss said, and it sided with employers.

This week’s Food and Drug Administration approval of the Pfizer vaccine could lead more employers to mandate vaccinations, said John Ho, an employment lawyer with the firm Cozen O’Connor.

“The practical result is you’re gonna have more people get fired,” he said.

That could mean more mandates challenged in court and — eventually — more legal clarity.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.