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Employees fired for refusing mandated vaccine likely won’t qualify for unemployment, lawyer says

Published: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:14 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2021 at 4:45 PM CDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - More companies are pursuing or considering COVID vaccine mandates, which has sparked many questions: Can an employer force workers to get vaccinated? Can they be fired if they refuse?

Employers are legally allowed to mandate vaccinations, attorney Quentin Brogdon said.

“The answer, the consensus, is now that employers probably can require that,” Brogdon said. “Particularly given that the Pfizer vaccine is no longer approved (by the FDA) only under an emergency use authorization. It’s now fully and finally approved.”

The highly transmissible Delta variant has made COVID an even bigger danger. Nationwide, there is a spike in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Because of that, an increasing number of workplaces are requiring employees to get the COVID vaccine and show proof.

Many workers have willingly gotten vaccinated, but others have resisted. Brogdon said those workers may even be fired.

“Probably, an employee can be fired for refusing to be vaccinated unless the employee has a sincerely held religious belief against the vaccination or if the employee had a disability that would make the employee more susceptible to the bad effects of the vaccination,” he said.

Borgdon said a worker who violates a company’s vaccine policy will generally not be eligible for unemployment benefits. However, it may depend on the state they live in. In most states, individuals must prove they’re out of work through no fault of their own to collect unemployment benefits.

“This topic isn’t going away anytime soon,” Brogdon said. “Many (WAVE 3 News) viewers are going to have strong opinions on either side of the issue whether it’s for being vaccinated or against being vaccinated, and the laws are having to catch up with the reality of what’s going on the ground, and employers are having to make some tough decisions right now.”

Brogdon said before anyone quits or if an employer is thinking about firing someone, it’s a good idea to consult the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and consult with statewide websites giving employee and employer guidance. Also, consider working with an employment attorney about rights and obligations.

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