Workers fired for refusing vaccine likely won’t collect unemployment, attorney says

CHARLOTTE — Seven of Charlotte’s largest independent medical practices are now requiring their employees to get vaccinated, including OrthoCarolina and Tryon Medical Partners.

Workers have to be vaccinated by Oct. 31.

Charlotte city government employees will now have to verify their vaccination status. The city plans to hand out forms next week, and workers will have 10 days to fill them out. Once the data is collected, the city manager will review the rates and determine whether any safety measures are needed.

But what happens if someone doesn’t want to get vaccinated? In some cases, they could be terminated. But if they lose their job because they refuse to get the shot, experts said they likely won’t be able to collect unemployment benefits.

Employment attorney Joshua Van Kampen said about 30% of the calls he’s getting are from people wanting to know what their legal options are because their employer is mandating COVID-19 vaccinations.

“I think people are becoming surprised to know they don’t have a lot of legal options,” he said.

From government agencies to private businesses, more and more companies are requiring their employees to show proof of vaccination in order to keep their jobs.

Novant and Atrium Health now require their employees to show proof of vaccination within the next few months.

Hundreds have protested the mandate. And while they can demonstrate, legally, Van Kampen said employees don’t have much of a case.

He said employers are well within their rights to mandate vaccinations as a reasonable workplace requirement. There are limited exceptions to keep a job without getting the jab.

“That’s one, if they have a bona fide religious objection. And two, if they have a specific disability,” Van Kampen said. “I have yet to come across a valid religious objection to taking a vaccine.”

If someone’s employer required vaccinations, and they lose their job because they chose not to get vaccinated, Van Kampen said they shouldn’t bank on getting unemployment benefits either. He said that’s because they are not eligible for that money.

“To me, if you have a job, and your employer says, ‘Hey, we want you to keep working here, but we’re going to need you to take a vaccine,’ and then you refuse to take the vaccine, I think the department will look at that and say, ‘You became voluntarily unemployed,’” he said.

While many unemployment lawyers are getting calls from workers weighing their legal options, Van Kampen said it will be hard to find an attorney willing to sue an employer over a vaccine requirement.

“If you are going to go to court about this, you do have to be sympathetic and ask yourself, ‘Is a judge who’s lost a family member to COVID going to be sympathetic to you because you refuse to take a vaccine?” Van Kampen said.

(WATCH BELOW: Hundreds gather at Freedom Park to protest Atrium, Novant Health’s employee vaccine mandate)