CIC Plus + CCC + Emptech + TCC are Experian Employer Services. Learn More

On January 13, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private employers could not proceed but allowed the mandate for workers at healthcare facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds to take effect.
At the same time, employers have been taking steps to ensure their workplaces are safe and their workers are protected against COVID-19. Thus, vaccine mandates were accepted as the norm at many companies across the U.S., meaning that workers who oppose the vaccine could face the prospect of losing their jobs.

Whether they can collect unemployment benefits may depend on the state where they were employed, but employees who lose their jobs for not complying with company policy generally lose their eligibility to receive unemployment benefits. However, a few states have passed laws to ban worker vaccination mandates and protect their access to unemployment benefits. Therefore, in order to ensure compliance, it is of utmost importance for employers to monitor both vaccine mandate developments as well as state and local regulations.

COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

On September 9, 2021, President Biden introduced requirements for employees working for large private employers, the federal government, federal contractors, and healthcare entities to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Shortly after, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring all employers with at least 100 employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated or subjected to weekly COVID-19 testing. However, the mandate that was scheduled to go into effect on January 4, 2022, was suspended and faced months of legal uncertainty.

After the Supreme Court blocked federal employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the Biden administration formally withdrew these requirements. At the same time, the President has called on businesses to voluntarily implement the vaccine and testing mandate while OSHA strongly encouraged the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace.

Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

Each state determines eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits. Typically, a person is eligible if they lose their job because of circumstances outside of their control or through no fault of their own. However, employers who are fired for misconduct, like failing a drug test or violating a workplace policy, are usually not allowed to collect unemployment benefits.

Given that many businesses and organizations view the COVID-19 vaccine as a reasonable tool for maintaining workplace safety, employees who refuse to be vaccinated may be fired for misconduct and disqualified from obtaining unemployment benefits. Therefore, once a company establishes a vaccination policy, workers generally have to comply unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

Still, as long as there is no law on vaccinations and unemployment benefits, this will remain an open issue determined on a state-by-state basis. Individual states’ departments of labor will review unemployment claims, taking the circumstances and basis for an employee’s termination into consideration.

States Paying Unemployment Benefits to Unvaccinated Workers

Several states have taken action to clarify eligibility for unemployment benefits for those workers who lose their jobs because they refuse to get vaccinated. Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee have all passed laws that allow unvaccinated workers to collect unemployment benefits. Other states, including Wyoming, Wisconsin, and Missouri, are considering similar measures. These amended unemployment laws only apply to those refusing to comply with employers’ vaccine rules, not for violating any other company policy.

The new state laws also generally make it easier for employees to qualify for certain exemptions from workplace vaccine mandates. As states generally require businesses to allow exemptions from certain workplace rules for medical or religious reasons, workers who qualify for an exemption have legal protection from being fired for noncompliance with a vaccine mandate. According to amended state laws, workers who do not qualify for an exemption and are fired are now eligible for income support via unemployment benefits.

In addition to this, Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee were among 26 states that ended federal unemployment benefits a few months ahead of their official expiration in September 2021. They argued that these benefits were contributing to a labor shortage by offering an incentive for recipients not to look for work.

Vaccine Mandate Implications for Employers

Each state is solely responsible for determining the amount of unemployment benefits and eligibility, but employers should understand how employees are financially protected, especially in light of the changes to the unemployment landscape caused by the COVID-19. Even though they no longer need to meet the vaccine mandate or OSHA’s ETS, employers still need to comply with any applicable state and local COVID-19 regulations. In light of this, they need to be careful when determining their obligations and options in implementing a vaccination policy but also address the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces.

Managing unemployment benefits can be overwhelming as employers need to ensure adherence to federal and state laws together with regulations changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, outsourcing unemployment claims management allows employers to handle unemployment benefits with ease and save significant costs in the long run, as well as to stay compliant with the latest rules and procedures at both state and federal levels.


Contact CCC to see how we can save your organization time and money.
Contact our Sales Team
(800) 207-6926

Featured Videos

View All Videos

Latest News

Close

Sales

    Your Name:*

    Title:

    Company Name:*

    Company Address:

    Company City:

    Company State:

    Company Zip:

    Number of Employees:

    Your Email:*

    Phone Number:*

    Fax Number:

    Check the boxes below if you wish to receive information on any of the following:

    Unemployment Cost ControlTax Credits & Incentives (WOTC)Employment / Wage Verification

    Your Message:

    Employment & Income Verfication

      Your Name:*

      Title:

      Company Name:*

      Company Address:

      Company City:

      Company State:

      Company Zip:

      Number of Employees:

      Your Email:*

      Phone Number:*

      Fax Number:

      Your Message: