States Moving to Protect Unvaccinated Workers
Four different states, including Florida, have made changes to their unemployment insurance laws in order to provide protection for employees who have refused vaccine mandates. By being able to collect jobless benefits, unvaccinated workers who oppose their employer’s requirements for vaccination now have remedies under their state’s laws to be compensated if they were fired or quit for refusing the jab.
Each state has the constitutional authority to make their own laws regarding unemployment benefits. In a move that many on both sides of the political aisle have seen supersede state’s rights, the Biden Administration moved to enforce vaccine mandates on companies with 100 or more employees across the nation. This mandate continues to face fierce legal challenges primarily because the administration responsible for enforcement, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), seems to lack the legal authority to enforce such a broad sweeping mandate.
Is the OSHA Mandate a Federal or State Issue?
The Biden Administration has put OSHA in a precarious position where it tries to enforce federal law on what legally is up to individual states to decide. While many continue to draw political lines around the issue of vaccine mandates, there are thousands of individuals who simply cannot get the vaccine because of underlying health issues, religious objections, and other protected statuses under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These statutes provide protection for individuals where a company cannot discriminate based on race, gender, disability, religion, and other statuses. The vaccine mandate therefore seems at odds with these provisions, which sparked a number of lawsuits when it first went into effect.
With a growing number of states now offering unemployment benefits to workers who were fired because they couldn’t or wouldn’t receive the vaccine, the legal fight has been set up for an interesting showdown between federal vs state authority. As we’ve previously reported, vaccine mandates are not new in the U.S. With the smallpox outbreak in the early 1800’s, there was a swift call for a vaccine mandate to help quell the rapidly-spreading virus.
How To Collect Unemployment Benefits Related to COVID
When an employee is let go because of downsizing or other reasons that weren’t their fault, that employee is usually eligible for collecting state unemployment benefits. Being fired because they were chronically late or didn’t follow corporate policies generally means that employee wouldn’t be eligible. The vaccine mandate set forth an interesting issue for employers and employees in this regard. Many corporations wishing to follow the federal mandate were quick to make vaccines a condition of employment, so employees who refused were in violation of corporate policies. However, as we’ve outlined above, states still have the ultimate authority in deciding which individuals are eligible to collect unemployment.
For workers who have been fired for refusing to get the vaccine, the changes various states are starting to implement will provide them with a way to still qualify for unemployment benefits. The most pressing hurdle for employers is those employees who have requested exemptions. Title VII and the ADA again provide that accommodations must be made for those who have religious objections or a disability that prevents them from being vaccinated. The new state laws from Florida, Tennessee, and others are extending this protection for those refusing to get vaccinated for almost any sort of personal or philosophical reasons.
COVID Sufferers May Also Be Eligible For Social Security Benefits
Now, outside of state unemployment benefits, COVID sufferers do have other remedies available to them when they are disabled by the disease. Recent cases have shown where individuals who have been disabled for more than a year from the symptoms of long-COVID have been successful in securing social security benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a federal entity responsible for reviewing and either approving or denying benefits and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC) enforces workplace anti-discrimination laws. As posted on their website, “The EEOC recognizes that “long COVID” may be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act in certain circumstances.”
Mark Hall is a leading attorney within our social security disability division, pointed out that “to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, a person must have a severe physical or mental impairment that is permanent, or expected to last for at least one year, which prevents them from doing their past work, as well as any other job found in significant numbers in the national economy..so, a claimant with long-Covid will need medical documentation of all symptoms, and the SSA will need to be convinced that the claimant is not able to work a full-time job because of his/her impairments.”
Lost Your Job Or Been Denied Social Security Benefits From COVID? Talk to an Attorney Now.
The changes that states are putting in place are making it easier for someone who has lost their job because they refused a vaccine to get benefits. There’s also now clear ways for those who have been disabled due to their COVID illness to qualify for social security benefits. If you’ve been fired for refusing the vaccine or the Social Security Administration denied your disability claim after suffering from COVID, it’s time to talk to an attorney and understand your rights. Our team is constantly looking at changes in the laws that allow for more injured people to be fairly compensated. Have a quick and easy conversation with an attorney now, we’ll outline what steps you can take to get the compensation you deserve.