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Can employees who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine get unemployment benefits?

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Posted at 11:54 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 15:23:04-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV)  — As more companies are considering vaccine mandates many people are starting to ask questions. Can your employer force you to get vaccinated? If you choose not to, can you get fired?

Las Vegas attorney Richard Dreitzer said employers can’t force their employees, but they could fire them.

“If an employee refuses, an employer is within their rights, I believe, to say well then I’m gonna let you go,” Dreitzer said.

RELATED: Businesses can legally require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from employees, customers

Dreitzer said he’s getting more calls to his office as workers seek clarification about vaccine mandates. The most common question he’s asked is about unemployment eligibility if an employee refuses to get the vaccine.

“COVID makes everything more sensitive and more complicated. It’s always a balancing of rights. On the one hand, you’re going to have the employer saying they have to protect their workforce and the public and on the other hand, the employees are saying they disagree with vaccinations. I don’t think that’s going to cut it,” Dreitzer said.

RELATED: More than 1,000 people protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Las Vegas Strip

Dreitzer said if an employer gives a direct order based upon a health situation where they are trying to protect the workforce from being unhealthy, employees might not qualify for unemployment because they are being insubordinate.

If an employee quits, Dreitzer said it’s up to them to prove they left for a good cause.

Receiving unemployment could also depend on a worker's situation. Dreitzer said religious and medical exemptions could play a role.

“The two main areas of focus where people were saying they don’t want the vaccine and listing their reasons are sort of losing steam,” Dreitzer said.

Dreitzer says it’s getting harder to argue a vaccine as unreasonable during a pandemic. If an employee has a medical reason, they would need to get a physician to prove the vaccine would put them at risk.