FACT FINDERS: Unemployment benefits for the unvaccinated?

KOLD News 4-5 p.m. recurring
Published: Oct. 22, 2021 at 6:55 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Many unvaccinated people are faced with losing their jobs for not adhering to mandatory vaccination policies but will they still get unemployment benefits?

In short, probably not. Attorney Travis Pacheco with Fennemore Craig says, generally speaking, in Arizona if you quit your job or are fired for cause you are not normally entitled to unemployment benefits.

For COVID-19 vaccine terminations, he says it is going to depend on state law and state unemployment statues as to how they define certain things like misconduct or for cause termination.

For example, misconduct is defined by Arizona statute to include things such as insubordination, refusal to follow reasonable employer instructions, and violation of employer safety rules without good cause.

He adds the Department of Economic Security typically will evaluate these claims on a case-by-case basis.

”There may be other facts that lead them to allow employees to collect unemployment insurance like if an employee can establish that they had a valid religious-based objection or disability objection to the vaccination policy, then they may allow them to collect unemployment. But, generally speaking if they are terminated for violating company policy, they’re in a tough position but it does depend on state law,” he said.

In Arizona, there was Senate Bill 1648 that basically said a person cannot be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment. It also barred any discrimination for refusing to get the shot and said a person does not have to disclose whether they have taken the shot as a condition of employment. It died in committee.

So, Pacheco says if you believe your individual circumstances should allow you to get jobless benefits you will probably have to fight for them or it is very likely you will walk away with nothing. In terms of your job offering severance, he says unless there is an employment contract or ERISA severance plan that expressly provides for severance upon termination, most employers in Arizona do not have to offer severance pay if they are terminating an employee for violating a mandatory vaccination policy.

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