Can you collect unemployment if you are fired for refusing to get the vaccine?

Local News

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?

Samuel L. Bolinger, an attorney at the Law Office of Samuel L. Bolinger, told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee, 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.

He 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. Bollinger added that it’s the toughest to overcome.

“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 69, that’s really unreasonable and you can say no and probably win that insubordination claim.”

According to the 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

Last December, WANE 15 explained that an employer can require the vaccine for all employees. Bolinger added that the Equal Employment Opportunity laws do not prevent companies providing incentives to voluntarily provide documentation.

“If you get your vaccination and the employer gives you a gift card to your favorite eatery for 25 bucks that’s one thing,” Bolinger said. “But if the employer says ‘oh no, we’re going to give you a brand new car and here it is out back.’ EEOC considers that as a very large incentive that could make the employee feel that they’re pressure to disclose that protected information.”

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

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