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Mandatory Vaccination Policies and Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits

Due to the recent nationwide spike in cases associated with the Delta Coronavirus variant, many employers are encouraging their employees to be vaccinated and an increasing number of workplaces are requiring vaccinations to remain employed.  As a result, Thomas & Company has received numerous inquiries regarding how State Workforce Agencies might rule on eligibility for unemployment benefits should an individual voluntarily resign due to this policy or is subject to discharge for refusal to comply with the policy.

In most states, unemployment benefits are paid to individuals who are out of work through no fault of their own.  In general, individuals who are discharged for misconduct, willfully violating company policies, or endangering the safety of the workplace would typically be determined ineligible for benefits.  Likewise, someone who voluntarily quit would need to prove they had “good cause connected to the work and that is attributable to the employer.”

Private employers are typically free to set conditions of employment as long as they do not violate existing state and federal laws.  There are currently 27 states that have legislation pending that would prohibit employers from mandating vaccinations or requiring proof of vaccination as a condition of employment.  If these bills are passed into law, this will have an impact on whether or not an individual is eligible for unemployment benefits if they resign or are discharged based on their vaccination status. For more information on the employer-mandated vaccine legislation, please refer to

That said, State Workforce Agencies can update eligibility requirements such that, depending on the circumstances, may allow unemployment benefits in either case.  Most state agencies review each unemployment claim on a case-by-case basis and make its determination on eligibility dependent on the individual facts.

This remains an extremely fluid issue and, as always, Thomas & Company will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as they become available.  If there are any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us or visit our website for the latest news and updates.

Michele Heckmann

Author Michele Heckmann

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