Can you collect unemployment if you refuse the COVID-19 vaccine and get fired?

COVID-19 Vaccine

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – With more employers requiring employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, there may be employees who refuse. If this results into the company letting the worker go, will the person be eligible for unemployment?

Unemployment rules vary from state to state, but Samuel L. Bolinger, an attorney in Indiana, said the answer is more than likely no.

“The question is really, if the employer gives you a specific instruction or mandate to do and you decline and you are terminated for insubordination. Insubordination is one of the eight reasons you why you will not receive unemployment in the state of Indiana,” Bolinger said.

According to legal guide site Nolo, employees who are fired for misconduct are typically not allowed to collect unemployment. What qualifies as misconduct varies from state to state, but could include anything from failing a drug test to violating safety protocol. If a company requires employees to get vaccinated as part of its health and safety protocol, not getting vaccinated could qualify as misconduct or insubordination. (Check with your state’s unemployment agency for the qualifications where you live.)

Bolinger said in his 30-year career, he’s never won a case when it comes to an employee losing his or her job due to insubordination. Insubordination is when someone refuses a direct order or command.

“If it is reasonable, meaning the instruction, the Department of Workforce may side with the employer,” Bolinger said. “If it’s unreasonable such as walking in front of a speeding truck on (Interstate) 69, that’s really unreasonable and you can say no and probably win that insubordination claim.”

According to Indiana’s Department of Workforce Development (DWD), each case will be decided on the individualized facts.

Generally we can say that if the employer has a rule/policy that is consistently applied and related to a business need and has reasonable medical/religious exemptions, then the employee who was terminated would not be eligible for unemployment insurance.

Indiana’s Department of Workforce development

If an employee provides information regarding his or her vaccination status, it should be kept confidential.

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