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Many workers who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus could risk losing their jobs – along with unemployment benefits as the business-based COVID-19 vaccine mandate takes effect.


Businesses are increasingly mandating that their employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine, citing health concerns and Broadening new federal requirements for large employers. Those who do not follow company policies are subject to termination of employment in many cases.

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Unemployment benefits are generally available to those who were let go through no fault of their own, according to US Chamber of Commerce. But if someone was fired for misconduct or violating company policy, they may be ineligible to collect unemployment.

Several companies and organizations, including United Airlines, UCHealth Systems and Novant Health, intend to furlough unvaccinated workers. In fact, according to a recent survey by research firm Gartner Inc., 46% of organizations plan to establish a vaccine mandate where legally permitted, which could mean thousands of people with potential may be forced to leave their jobs.

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As of October 8, more than 230 United Airlines employees have faced dismissals for not complying with the company’s vaccine mandate, a spokesman for the airline told Granthshala television stations. United said about 99.7% of its employees have been vaccinated.

The UCHealth system followed a similar policy, confirming to Granthshala television stations that employees had until October 1 to comply with its vaccinations “or obtain an approved medical or religious exemption.”

Of UCHealth’s 26,500 employees, 119 employees – less than 0.5% of its workforce – did not receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine.

“The employment of these 119 employees has been terminated,” a system spokesperson said. “Anyone leaving UCHealth employment is welcome – and encouraged – to reapply for their positions should they decide to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and wish to return. ”

FILE – A health worker prepares Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) mass vaccination site at Portland International Airport (PDX) on May 17, 2021 in Portland, Oregon. (Photographer: Alisha Jusev)

Similarly, out of NovantHealth’s total of 35,000 employees, 175 were terminated for non-compliance, according to Megan Rivers, director of media and influencer relations at NovantHealth.

Kaiser Permanente put more than 2,200 unpaid workers on unpaid leave, but said the numbers were declining daily.

“Those who are not responding have to do so by December 1, 2021, to be able to return to work. We expect none of our employees to quit their jobs instead of being vaccinated, but we are sure until then Will not know for sure,” a spokesperson for Kaiser Permanente told Granthshala television stations.

related: New York could use the National Guard to fill the ranks of unvaccinated health care workers

New York state’s largest health care provider, Northwell Health, announced that 1,400 workers refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and had to leave their jobs.

“Northwell regrets the loss of any staff in such circumstances, but as health care professionals and members of the state’s largest health care provider, we share our unique responsibility to protect the health of our patients and each other.” We pass this on to our employees, a Northwell spokesperson said in a statement, adding that our patients and the communities we serve are 100 percent vaccinated against COVID-19.

While workers who leave because of a vaccine refusal do not qualify for unemployment benefits, labor experts say there may be exceptions. The U.S. Department of Commerce calls this a “difficult gray area” because eligibility often depends on why the employee was fired and individual laws vary.

recently, New York State Department of Labor issued guidance that workers who have been fired for refusing vaccination are not eligible for unemployment insurance, unless they are exempt for a medical reason.

Washington State Department of Employment Security says online that “some individuals may still qualify based on their unique circumstances” and that the department “will evaluate each case on its own merits.” Officers will examine factors such as when the employer adopted the vaccine requirement, whether the employee is otherwise eligible for benefits, specific terms of the vaccine policy, and why the employee did not comply with the vaccine mandate.

If the employee does not qualify for accommodations and does not comply with the vaccine requirement, “a claim will be denied,” notes the department.

in Tennessee, Lawmakers proposed legislation earlier this year This would allow workers who quit their jobs because of the need for the vaccine and receive unemployment benefits.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate fell to 4.8% In the September jobs report released last week, which was the lowest level since March 2020. The rate fell partly because more people found jobs, but also because about 180,000 fewer people looked for work in September, meaning they were not counted as unemployed.

This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press and Kelly Hayes contributed.