So you've been fired over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Can you still get unemployment benefits?

Diane Wilson Image
Tuesday, August 17, 2021
Can workers fired over vaccine mandate claim unemployment?
If you're opposed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but your work requires it and you're let go over refusing to comply, will you get un unemployment benefits?

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- With the increase in COVID cases, more and more companies are mandating their workers be vaccinated.

If you're opposed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, but the place you work requires it and you're let go over refusing to comply with the mandate, don't assume you'll be eligible for unemployment.

"If they get terminated, then the standard is going to be whether or not that employee engaged in some kind of substantial misconduct in relation to that job," according to Durham attorney Carena Lemons of Lemons Law.

Lemons said her office is getting more and more calls from workers and the unemployed wondering what their rights are when it comes to unemployment. She recommends if you are let go from your job, you should at least apply for unemployment.

WATCH: Can an employer require COVID-19 vaccinations? Yes, with exceptions

People often cite HIPAA when refusing to share their medical privacy and vaccination status, however, that's not what the law addresses.

Experts said employers are within their rights to mandate vaccinations as a reasonable workplace requirement.

If you fail to comply and lose your job over it, you likely won't be eligible for unemployment, but even if your claim is denied, you can still appeal.

"That's when you can bring out all the facts, that's when you can show that documentation. Did you violate company policy by not getting vaccinated? Are there any breach of contract issues there? Did you--what were the rules when you first accepted employment with that company?" Lemons said.

If you quit, then the standard is different as Lemons explains the burden is now on you to prove you left for a good cause. There are two exemptions from the vaccine requirement: medical and religious beliefs. Those would need to be approved by the employer.

ABC11 reached out to the North Carolina Division of Employment Security Commission (DES) on how it is handling claims involving the COVID-19 vaccine and received the following response:

"People who are fired or quit their jobs because they refuse to follow their employer's vaccine requirement should not expect to receive unemployment benefits. Every claim is different, and the Division of Employment Security determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis by considering the facts and circumstances of the claim."