Refusing mandated COVID-19 vaccines and applying for unemployment benefits

EDD: claims determined on case-by-case basis
Pfizer Vaccine
Posted at 3:52 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 12:41:08-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- With Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine getting full approval, more private employers are now adding company policies requiring their workers to be fully vaccinated by specific dates, unless they have a cleared religious or medical exemption.

Some employees will choose to quit their job or get fired instead of getting the vaccine, but violating a company rule could mean no unemployment insurance benefits for those individuals as they search for new jobs.

“When an employee refuses to get vaccinated in response to an employer mandate, what the employee is doing is violating a company rule,” said Dan Eaton, a legal analyst. “Under those circumstances, the violation of a company rule, an employee generally is not entitled to unemployment if that’s the reason for their dismissal."

In California, there are several eligibility requirements when applying for unemployment benefits. The state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) says unemployment claims are determined on a case-by-case basis by looking at the facts specific to each individual claim.

But a spokesperson for EDD adds, “Without speaking to a particular case, benefits are generally available to those who lose work through no fault of their own. When someone quits or is fired and then seeks unemployment benefits, we conduct a phone interview with both the claimant and employer to determine if the person is eligible for benefits.”

According to the EDD, if an applicant quits their job, they will need to prove there was “good cause for leaving” and that they made all “reasonable attempts” to keep that job. If they were fired, the employer needs to prove there was misconduct. Misconduct could include violating a company policy.

Eaton expects the EDD to be busy with these claims; he also expects more lawsuits to come from the workplace mandates.

“When there is a mandate and a resistance to a mandate almost by definition, it results in legal disputes, and as often happens, the courts are going to be the final arbiter,” said Eaton.