Houston - More employers are requiring employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19. For those who don’t want to be vaccinated and risk being fired, most legal experts say their chances of collecting unemployment benefits are slim.
However, the Texas Workforce Commission says benefits will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Let's start with the policy.
In general, the TWC says to be eligible for unemployment benefits, workers must be terminated through no fault of their own. TWC states, "Examples of misconduct that could make you ineligible include violation of company policy."
Legal experts say a company can set a policy requiring vaccinations to keep the company safe from an outbreak, and because the COVID vaccines have FDA Emergency Use Authorization.
But James Bernsen, TWC spokesperson, says, "It is possible it can be grounds, but it's also possible that can be seen as not the determining factor."
Bernsen says eligibility for benefits is not cut and dry.
He explains, "Some policies companies put out there are going to vary a lot. Some of them might be more reasonable than others. Some of them might have alternatives. Someone might have requested the opportunity to work from home, and that's going to be part of the discussion as well."
Workers could also still be eligible for unemployment benefits if they refused to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons but will have to provide proof.
Workers who decide to quit jobs over vaccine requirements are not likely to receive unemployment benefits. TWC writes, "Most people who quit their jobs do not receive unemployment benefits."
Bersen points out that both employees and employers can go through three levels of appeals if they disagree with a decision.
So what about getting COBRA coverage to continue employer health insurance benefits after being fired?
Fired employees can qualify for COBRA, as long as they're not terminated for gross misconduct, such as stealing or assaulting someone. However, gross misconduct can also be defined as willfully refusing a company policy. So it will depend on how an employer characterizes the termination.