TYLER, Texas — COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is becoming much more than just a topic of medical conversation.
President Joe Biden has required vaccination for millions of federal and private workers and many companies are making it mandatory on their own.
People who don’t want to get the shot are afraid of what will happen if it costs them their jobs.
Can someone draw unemployment in Texas if they lose their job due to vaccine requirements?
True, but very rarely
WHAT WE FOUND
President Biden signed executive orders to require federal workers and contractors be fully-vaccinated or show weekly negative COVID-19 tests and to require OSHA to make vaccination mandatory at all companies with 100 or more workers. The White House estimates this would impact nearly 100 million workers, or two-thirds of the total U.S. labor force.
In Texas, roughly 59-percent of people are fully-vaccinated, but people over 65 are much more likely to be vaccinated than those who are younger and more likely to be working.
In a statement, Cisco Gamez, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission, said “being vaccinated or lack thereof is not determinative in and of itself regarding work separation.” He added, “every unemployment insurance claim is reviewed on a case by case basis. Each case is different, and what happens in an unemployment claim is dependent upon the individual facts.”
On its website, the Texas Workforce Commission says one of the eligibility checks it performs when a person files a claim for unemployment insurance benefits is about job separation. It says, “Most people who quit their jobs do not receive unemployment benefits.” Additionally, it says a person may be ineligible if they were fired from their job for violating company policy.
Bill Hommel, an employment attorney with Hommel Law Firm in Tyler, said vaccine mandates are company policies, so that is why few people who fall into this category would likely succeed in getting unemployment benefits.
“In my view, an employer directs you to do something like wear a mask or get the vaccine, and you don't do it, that's insubordination,” he said, “and that's going to always disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits.”
Hommel said a worker could ask for an exemption from the company’s vaccine mandate based on their religious beliefs or medical status. A note from a doctor explaining why the employee cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccine may be enough to sway the company, but Hommel said getting a religious exemption is often more challenging. “It's up to the employer to evaluate whether or not it's based upon some legitimate basis,” he explained, “other than something generic like in my reading of the Bible it says I don't have to take the vaccine.”