The COVID-19 pandemic took the nation’s labor force by storm, forcing many people to work from home while putting many others out of work.
Now vaccine mandates are rolling in, and they’re causing some serious issues for both employers and employees.
As many workers are hesitant to get vaccinated, 69% of employers fear that they’ll lose many of their talented workers to resignations and layoffs.
In fact, some workers are already quitting their jobs or getting fired for refusing to abide by the vaccine mandate.
And since a number of job posts are now mentioning vaccine requirements, securing new employment has become even harder for the unvaccinated.
In other words, it’s a difficult time in the career world today, and you need all the information you can get.
Luckily, this article offers all the crucial information that you need to navigate this difficult situation. It also offers some actionable insights into what you can do if you are fired due to a vaccine mandate.
But first, let’s get answers to a few important questions about the vaccine mandate.
Can Employers Require COVID-19 Vaccines?
Yes, employers retain the legal right to require COVID vaccines for their employees.
This means that your employer can, in fact, require you to take COVID-19 tests and be vaccinated before you can physically enter their workplace.
However, this vaccine mandate comes with certain rules and regulations.
- The vaccine must be a business necessity. This means that your employer must be able to prove that unvaccinated employees pose a risk to and can harm the health and safety of themselves or others.
- COVID-19 vaccine requirements should be made in accordance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and should be administered to all employees fairly and equally without regard to differences such as sex, race, age, religion, and the like.
- If an employee is protected by a collective bargaining agreement, the employer may need to come to an arrangement with the employee’s union before requiring vaccination.
- People with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs against vaccination should be given some suitable alternative that allows them to keep working without taking the vaccine.
- Inquiries about an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination status do not count as a disability-related inquiry. So, employers can request proof of vaccination or make inquiries about employees’ vaccination status.
To sum it all up, employers can require a COVID-19 vaccine, and employees will be legally bound to comply.
However, for employees that cannot get the COVID vaccine because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, or based on ground covered by any Federal Equal Opportunity (EO) laws, reasonable accommodations must be considered.
You should also note that due to certain state legislation, a vaccine requirement that meets Federal law guidelines could be turned down under State law.
Can You Be Fired for Not Getting Vaccinated?
Yes, your employer can fire you for not getting vaccinated.
While you may argue that vaccinations are voluntary, you should keep in mind that your employer can require a COVID-19 vaccine as an employment policy.
To back this up, the EEOC is of the opinion that workers can be required to get the vaccine as an official employment policy.
So, if your employer has issued a vaccine mandate, they have the right to fire you for “breaching work policy,” which is a cause. And getting fired for a “cause” means that you may not be eligible to claim unemployment benefits.
In other words, you can lose your job for a vaccine mandate, and be ineligible for unemployment benefits.
How to Avoid a Vaccine Mandate at Work
If you have personal or health reasons for not getting the vaccine, there are still a couple of things that you can look into to avoid the vaccine mandate at work.
Opt for regular testing
If you’ve decided not to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but are working in an organization where that decision is not an option, there is one way to keep your job.
You can apply for regular testing.
If regular testing is available and approved, it would require you to get weekly or bi-weekly COVID-19 tests to ensure that you do not have the virus.
In addition, you would need to follow all COVID-19 guidelines and workplace safety requirements such as wearing a mask and keeping your physical distance from other workers and visitors.
However, there are two problems with this approach…
The first is that your employers have the right to demand that you get a test at any time they deem reasonable.
The second is that taking weekly COVID-19 tests can get expensive, and as such, may be difficult to continue for a long time.
Qualify for an exemption
One other way to avoid vaccine mandates at work is to qualify for an exemption.
There are two exemptions that allow you to keep working without getting vaccinated.
You can avoid vaccine mandates at work on the basis of religious beliefs.
To be exempted on the basis of religious belief as provided in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you have to belong to a religion that prohibits vaccines.
You would also have to show that you are a longstanding member of the religion, and even provide written proof from a leader in said religion, explaining why you should not get vaccinated.
However, keep in mind that you do not automatically qualify for a religious exemption. Rather, you only have a federally protected right to seek one.
You can also avoid vaccine mandates at work on grounds of medical disabilities.
Under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, employers have to consider reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.
So, if you can prove that you’re pregnant, or have a medical condition like severe allergy (anaphylaxis) to any component of a COVID vaccine, or adverse reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine, you can apply for an exemption on the grounds of medical disability.
The ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act cover all employers, including those of state and local government employees.
However, for disability accommodations, federal government employers have to comply with the Rehabilitation Act instead of the ADA.
What to Do if You Are Fired for Vaccine Mandate
If things do not work out even after trying everything to avoid the vaccine mandate, you have the following paths open to you for now.
Find work at companies with fewer than 100 employees
The Biden-led administration imposed the vaccine mandate to curb the new surge of COVID-19 cases.
The mandate requires all businesses with 100 or more employees to either ensure all their workers get vaccinated or get tested once a week.
Most big companies are already falling in line, so if you don’t want to get vaccinated, your job options may become limited.
But there’s still hope, and it’s that…
You can find work at companies with fewer than 100 employees.
There are 32.5 million small businesses in the U.S., of which 98.2 percent have fewer than 100 employees.
This means that you can still easily get a job without getting the COVID vaccine. The only catch is that you won’t be able to secure employment in big corporations.
Use job boards that host jobs without vaccine mandate
With the increasing number of unvaccinated unemployed people, several job boards have emerged to help these folks find jobs at companies that don’t require the COVID-19 vaccine.
If you get fired for not complying with the vaccine mandate, you can use job boards to search for work in companies that do not require you to get vaccinated.
The drawback to using these job boards is that they have limited job offers.
For instance, Redballoon only lists 35 jobs in California, and Novaxmandate lists just 4 jobs in San Diego. These job boards are also pretty new and, as such, not much can be said about their credibility.
Find remote work
Remote work is another viable option, as many employers have started to enforce the vaccine mandates in their organizations.
Working online from home is one realistic path you can take if you get fired for the vaccine mandate.
You can find and apply for remote positions in companies while steering clear of the vaccines that got you fired in the first place.
Consider a different industry
If you get fired, it may well just be time for an industry change.
As scary as it may be, making a career change like this one has several benefits.
For one thing, you can move to industries that are not covered by the vaccine mandate. Additionally, a change of industry may provide you with an opportunity for advancement in your career.
However, before going through with an industry change, you should ensure that you’re ready for the change.
This is often a rough ride, but you can employ the services of a career coach to make your industry transition smoother.
Start a new business
After getting out of one job, the first thing people think about is securing another.
They begin to plan yet another cumbersome job search journey while still trying to come to terms with their loss.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Getting laid off may just be an opportunity to start your own business.
Starting your own business opens your mind to new experiences, and even gives you the time you need to reflect and consider other career options.
The major problem with starting a new business, however, is its financial burden.
But on the bright side, there are many free resources available for planning a new business.
Try to get unemployment benefits
Depending on the state in which you reside, you may be able to file for unemployment benefits if you get fired for non-compliance with vaccine mandates.
However, qualifying for these benefits is difficult, as only those who are fired without cause are eligible.
If you get fired for the vaccine mandate, you are fired with cause – the cause being a flagrant disregard for company rules and regulations.
The only way to overturn this rule is to prove that your refusal to get vaccinated was based on medical or religious reasons.
But even with this, qualifying for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, which provides cash benefits to unemployed Americans, is going to be tricky.
Your employers can require COVID-19 vaccines, and they can legally fire you for not getting vaccinated.
However, getting fired for not complying with the vaccine mandate does not have to be the end of your career.
Check out the available options we discussed in this article, and see how they work for you. And if you have any more questions about your career and/or job search, do not hesitate to reach out to us.