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Vaccine Mandate Cases: How are the states ruling?

With many states increasing employer tax rates to replenish state unemployment trust funds depleted due to the pandemic, managing your unemployment costs are more important than ever. Many employers want to know if they will be liable for unemployment benefits awarded to terminated employees who do not comply with a company vaccine mandate and leave their employment.

We have been monitoring the states to see how they are going to rule in cases where an individual quit or was discharged due to a vaccine policy.  While it is still early in the process with many cases still pending a determination, it appears most states are siding with the employer in those cases that have been adjudicated and the employer is not being charged for benefits. Even in those states that have indicated that individuals may be eligible for benefits for failure to comply with a vaccine mandate (AZ, FL, IA, and MT) we have not seen any clear rulings indicating that they will be granting benefits in every case.

As an employer, you can play a part in the process to control your unemployment costs for vaccine mandate separations. Strong documentation and a uniform enforcement of the vaccine policies play a vital role in defending your case.

  • A written vaccine policy should be provided to all employees and include repercussions for non-compliance.
  • Ensure the employee has adequate time to accommodate the new vaccine policy.
  • A signed acknowledgement from your employees can confirm receipt and understanding of the new vaccine policies.
  • Documentation on how the employees were made aware of the policy, dates they needed to comply with and documentation of all conversations with the individuals who were not in compliance with the policy should be kept in the personnel file.
  • Uniform enforcement of the vaccine policies across your company are essential.

To make it easier for you to track these cases, Thomas & Company has added 2 new separation codes specific to the vaccine mandates – Voluntary Quit – Refused COVID-19 Vaccination and Discharge – Refused COVID-19 Vaccination to document these cases.  For more information on these separation codes, please check out this article Vaccine Policy Separations.

We are continuing to monitor these vaccine related cases, but early indications are that the states are viewing these cases as violation of company policy cases and with the proper documentation and procedures in place, you can mitigate the risk to your unemployment costs.  If we see any indication of states ruling differently, we will issue an update for those specific states. Thomas & Company is committed to providing up to date guidance and support as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Michele Heckmann

Author Michele Heckmann

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