Many states do not provide state unemployment benefits to workers who quit their jobs or are fired for cause. There are however five states that have decided that when employees lose their job because they failed to receive a vaccination against COVID-19, they can still file for unemployment.
According to Yahoo, in Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee, employments which have been terminated for failing to comply with vaccination requirements are eligible for unemployment benefits. Republicans fought to end extended unemployment benefits in these states during the pandemic in the hopes that it would ease the labor shortage. The decision in these states is highly controversial, as many GOP legislators hoped the change would help ease labor shortages. Among the states that cut extended federal unemployment benefits in June, Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, and Florida.
Those opposed to the new policy claim it politicizes the pandemic.
“These governors, who are using the unemployment insurance system in a moment of political theater to make a statement about the vaccine mandate, are the same folks who turned off unemployment benefits early for millions of workers over the summer,” National Employment Law Project executive director Rebecca Dixon told the Washington Post.
MSNBC’s Steve Benen recently reported on the opposition of many business owners, who would prefer to have a protected workforce, while at the same time do not want to pay UI costs for employees they fired.
In support of the policy, republicans argue that it gives individuals free choice in their medical treatment. In a tweet, Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson wrote, “Kansans have made it clear that they choose freedom over Faucism,” suggesting that the masking and vaccine recommendations of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci are akin to fascism based on his title as President Biden’s chief medical adviser.
Approximately 25% of workers polled said their employer required vaccinations as of late October 2021. It increased from just 9% in June, but that was before Biden mandated vaccinations for healthcare workers and employees of businesses with 100+ employees. According to KFF.org, only 1% of working adults quit their jobs due to vaccination requirements. In a few states, unemployment may still be an option, but this could change if people know about the new policy.