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Some states make it easier for Americans to get unemployment benefits when they’re laid off because they aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19.
The governors of Florida, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee have signed laws in the past few weeks changing the rules for claiming unemployment benefits. Workers in these states who lose their jobs because they refuse to comply with a Covid-19 vaccination mandate in the workplace are now entitled to benefits.
This contradicts typical government rules, which, in the opinion of labor experts, generally do not prohibit assistance when workers are fired for non-compliance with certain workplace guidelines, be it in relation to vaccine requirements or mandatory drug testing.
Three of the states (Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee) are ruled by Republican governors. The governor of Kansas is a Democrat.
Republican lawmakers in other states, including Arkansas, New York, and Wisconsin, have tabled similar bills since September, according to a database from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if others do that, especially when the legislature comes back into session [next year]”Said Andrew Stettner, Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.
The move comes as many U.S. employers are weighing a vaccination mandate in the workplace and fears about the Omicron virus variant mount.
According to a survey published Tuesday by Willis Towers Watson, a consulting firm, around 57% of large companies need or plan to have Covid-19 vaccinations for employees. However, more than half of them will only move forward if a Biden government vaccine rule goes into effect.
The Biden administration rule requires companies with at least 100 employees to ensure that employees are vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test weekly. The occupational health and safety authority suspended the enforcement and implementation of the measure after a federal appeals court ordered a break until the review.
The rule should go into effect on January 4th. President Joe Biden on Thursday urged companies to voluntarily proceed with the requirements.
“Put simply, delaying the standard would likely cost many lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects and enormous costs,” the Justice Department said in a court file. “This is a coincidence of damage of the highest order.”
Some Republican officials trying to overturn the policy argue that it violates personal freedoms.
“I believe the vaccine is the best defense against Covid-19 and we have provided Iowans with the information they need to determine what is best for themselves and their families, but no Iowan should be forced to Losing their job or livelihood due to the Covid virus. 19 vaccine, “Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said on October 29 after signing the bill to change the unemployment code.
Apart from easing the collection of benefits, the new state laws also generally make it easier for employees to claim certain exemptions from the compulsory vaccination at the workplace.
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States generally require companies to allow exemptions from certain workplace regulations for medical or religious reasons.
Employees who are entitled to an exception have statutory protection against dismissal for non-compliance with a vaccination order.
Those who do not have the right to exemption and who are made redundant are now entitled to social assistance through unemployment benefits.
According to Alexa Tapia, the National Employment Law Project’s unemployment insurance campaign coordinator, policies appear to contradict state measures regarding unemployment benefits.
Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee were among the 26 states that began cutting federal unemployment benefits a few months before Labor Day ended. They argued that benefits contribute to labor shortages by providing an incentive for beneficiaries not to look for work. (Data in the following months showed that, for the most part, this was not the case.)
The new unemployment laws send the opposite message by providing financial incentives to people who lose their jobs due to compulsory vaccination, Tapia said.