You could lose your job as more employers require workers to get vaccinated. Even without a vaccination mandate, what if you get sick and run out of sick leave — assuming you have it — or can’t work because you’re hospitalized. How will your family survive financially? The research is still coming in on the long-haul effects of covid. Will you end up with long-term care expenses because you remained skeptical about the vaccines?
Employers initially had been cautious about mandating vaccinations. Then came the emergence of the delta variant, which has resulted in a surge in hospitalizations and deaths. The increase in coronavirus cases is overwhelmingly attributed to people who are not vaccinated.
CNN recently fired three staffers after learning they were working in the office despite being unvaccinated. The Houston Methodist hospital system dismissed or asked for the resignation of 153 workers who refused to get inoculated. The Pentagon has ordered all active and reserve military personnel to get vaccinated.
The three coronavirus vaccines used in the United States were authorized for emergency use following rigorous clinical trials. Just recently, the Food and Drug Administration gave full authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Following that FDA move, President Biden called on employers to mandate that workers be vaccinated.
Federal equal-employment opportunity laws do not prevent an employer from requiring all workers physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for the coronavirus, as long as employers comply with the reasonable-accommodation provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said in a news release that specifically addressed vaccine mandates.
It’s a gray area, but given the severity of the pandemic, it’s very likely that if your employer requires that you be vaccinated and you are fired for refusing to do so, you will not qualify for unemployment benefits, according to Nicole Marquez, director of social insurance for the National Employment Law Project.
“Generally speaking, claimants would not qualify for unemployment insurance if they refuse to comply with an employer vaccine requirement,” Marquez said. “But there are always caveats if the refusal is for a religious or disability-related reason. But the burden is going to be on the worker.”
Think about all the stress of losing your job and then the steps you have to go through to appeal for unemployment if you’re denied benefits.
“That in itself is going to create an economic burden for someone,” Marquez said.
Even if you aren’t denied benefits, can you or your family survive on unemployment benefits if you can’t find a replacement job before the money runs out?
“These benefits are woefully inadequate and insufficient,” Marquez said.
Thinking of fighting your firing? Unless you can find an attorney to take your case on contingency, be prepared to come up with the money for a lawsuit that could take years to litigate. Some workers in the Houston Methodist firings sued over the hospital system’s vaccine mandate. The case was dismissed, with the judge writing: “Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.”
If you’re opposed to being vaccinated, your employer-provided health insurance premiums might go up.
Delta Air Lines has said employees who elect not to get vaccinated will be subject to a health insurance surcharge. In a memo to employees, Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said that starting Nov. 1, unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s account-based health-care plan will have to pay an additional $200 per month for their coverage.
In June and July, covid hospitalizations among unvaccinated adults cost the U.S. health system over $2 billion, according to the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Bastian made a passionate plea to vaccine holdouts, pointing out that the average hospital stay for covid-19 has cost Delta $50,000.
“I know some of you may be taking a wait-and-see approach or waiting for full FDA approval,” he wrote. “With this week’s announcement that the FDA has granted full approval for the Pfizer vaccine, the time for you to get vaccinated is now. … Protecting yourself, your colleagues, your loved ones and your community is fundamental to the shared values that have driven our success for nearly a century.”
Your employer may never require you to get vaccinated, but consider that your refusal could mean future layoffs if you or your co-workers become ill and the business has to shut down or cut back service. If coronavirus cases don’t decrease significantly, your company might have to reduce people’s hours to accommodate social distancing and keep workers safe.
I’m not unsympathetic to people who fear getting vaccinated. I was afraid early on, too. But I believe the scientific research that says a coronavirus vaccine could save my life. If you get sick and are unable to work, how will you support your family? If you die, how will your family pay the bills?
So, it’s come down to this: You have a right to refuse to get vaccinated. But that choice could have severe financial consequences.