The Delaware Department of Labor has ruled that employees terminated for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are not eligible to receive unemployment insurance.
According to Delaware law, claimants may not receive unemployment insurance if they have violated an employers’ policy that is deemed to be reasonable in nature and has been clearly communicated to employees.
“In general, DOL has determined that vaccine requirements by employers are considered reasonable in nature,” the agency said in a press release. “Employees and claimants that fail to comply with employer-initiated COVID-19 vaccination requirements, in most instances, would not qualify to receive UI benefits upon separation from the employer.”
The department said each case is unique, however, and will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
“Like all UI claims, eligibility will depend on the specific circumstances,” the department said.
The Department of Labor is encouraging employers who hire union employees to review the governing collective bargaining agreement before requiring vaccinations.
In May, the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission issued updated guidance asserting that employers are within their legal rights to deny employment on the basis of COVID-19 vaccination status.
The commission said vaccine requirements are permissible so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Such exceptions could include disability, a doctor having advised a woman not to get the vaccine while pregnant or breastfeeding, or because of an employee’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.
In September, President Biden issued sweeping new regulations that say private employers with 100 or more workers must require employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly.
There are more than 550 employers in Delaware with 100 workers or more.
In accordance with the new guidelines from state and federal labor agencies and the White House, many companies have set early-October deadlines for employees to either get vaccinated or relinquish their employment.
Given federal guidance and state unemployment laws, it is unlikely that legal challenges in Delaware would be successful. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, lawmakers are scrambling to amend labor laws to grant vaccine-refusers the ability to apply for unemployment benefits.
To date, 60.6% of all Delawareans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 71.8% of Delawareans 18 and older have received one dose.
Charlie is a staff writer for Delaware LIVE covering Delaware legislative and business news. Previously, Charlie worked for the Delaware State Senate. He was raised in Sussex County before attending Duquesne University in Pittsburgh where he studied political science and philosophy.
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