Recently, our Swartz & Swartz blog has been focused on the rules and legal issues around vaccine mandates.

Recently, our Swartz & Swartz blog has been focused on the rules and legal issues around vaccine mandates. We discussed how employers can legally require their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and how there are only two avenues for legitimate exemptions from getting the vaccine – religious or health-related.

Just last week on September 9, President Joseph R. Biden announced a nationwide vaccine mandate through two Executive Orders, which will make vaccines mandatory for federal workers, people who currently have contracts with the government, as well as employees working in private companies with more than 100 workers. What we haven’t yet explored is what happens if you get fired for refusing the vaccine. In today’s blog post, we’ll go down that road to see exactly what the consequences are. This falls under an area of the law called Labor and Employment Law.

Recall that according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Federal EEO laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In most states, people have to prove they’re out of work through no fault of their own to collect unemployment benefits. Most Massachusetts workers are covered by the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, although workers in some jobs may not be eligible for benefits. According to the Department of Unemployment, to be eligible for UI benefits, you must

have earned at least:

  • $5,400 during the last 4 completed calendar quarters, and
  • 26 times the weekly benefit amount you would be eligible to collect.

As well as:

  • Be legally authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Be unemployed, or working significantly reduced hours, through no fault of your own
  • Be able and willing to begin suitable work without delay when offered

They key take away from the above list of requirements is that unemployment payments in Massachusetts are designed to help people who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. That’s why when a business closes or issues mass layoffs, the people who are let go are often eligible for weekly UI benefits. Someone fired for breaking a company policy, big or small, can be denied benefits.

However, no matter where you work, as an employee, you do have the right to request an exemption from getting the COVID-19 vaccine provided it is for legitimate medical or religious reasons. What does this mean?

Let’s bring this back to getting fired for refusing to get a vaccine and assume the company that you work for has a policy in place mandating the COVID-19 vaccine. Legally speaking, if the company’s vaccination policy, and the consequences for breaking that policy, are made clear to employees, and you, as an employee, refuse the vaccine and get terminated as a result, it will likely disqualify you from receiving UI benefits because you knowingly broke a company rule.

However, an employee who has proof of a medical exemption or religious objection to receiving a COVID-19 vaccine may still be eligible to collect unemployment benefits if fired for refusing the jab.

If you think that you have been fired from your workplace for improper or illegal reasons, please call our Swartz & Swartz employment attorneys today. Call our Boston, Massachusetts office at (617) 742-1900, or toll-free at 1-800-545-3732. Our attorneys at Swartz & Swartz P.C. are here to help you.

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Mr. Angueira is an accomplished senior trial lawyer at Swartz & Swartz, P.C., who has obtained record breaking results for his clients. He was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1982 and the New York Bar in 1983. He specializes Employment Litigation, Medical Malpractice, Product Liability, Discrimination, Whistle Blower and False Claims.

 

 

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