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Workers who get fired for refusing COVID vaccine could be denied unemployment benefits

If a worker is terminated for refusing to get vaccinated will they qualify for unemployment compensation? Since FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID vaccine businesses big and small have been implementing vaccine mandates.

Walmart, Disney, United, and Google all have vaccine requirements in place. Those are large companies with significant resources- legal and otherwise. Small businesses have been walking a much finer line as they look ahead at possible vaccine mandates in their own organizations.

Workplace attorneys say vaccine mandates are similar to helmets or safety equipment on construction sites. It’s not optional, if a universal policy across the business among its workforce.


“Ultimately if your employer says it’s a policy and you don’t want to abide by it, your alternative is going to be to quit or likely be fired,” attorney Lorisa LaRocca from Woods Oviatt Gilman told 13WHAM.

Here’s how it breaks down: If an employee is fired for violating a mandatory policy- even a vaccine mandate- they are terminated for cause. “If you are an employee and you violate your company’s policy or rule, that is a basis for you to be denied unemployment,” LaRocca explained.

Companies in the Finger Lakes region are dealing with staffing shortages, which has prompted some hesitancy among employers. That said, others are issuing their own versions of the same policy- without mandating the vaccine. For example, Xerox is requiring employees to indicate if they are vaccinated and to provide proof. The company told 13WHAM that anyone who lies about their vaccination status could be fired.



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