What Delaware Employers Need to Know: Unemployment Benefits Generally Unavailable for Termination due to Refusal to be Vaccinated

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The Delaware Department of Labor, Division of Unemployment Insurance, recently issued guidance to address unemployment compensation benefits claims filed by employees who were terminated over refusals to comply with an employer’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

In Delaware, generally, if an employee violates an employment policy and that violation leads to their termination, then the employee may not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if the employment policy is reasonable in nature. The Delaware Department of Labor (DDOL) explained that it has determined that vaccine requirements by employers – not exclusive to COVID-19 vaccines – are reasonable in nature. The DDOL stated that unemployment benefits claimants who fail to comply with employer-initiated COVID-19 vaccination requirements, in most instances, would not qualify to receive unemployment insurance benefits upon separation from the employer. However, these types of cases will still be evaluated by the DDOL on a case-specific basis.

The DDOL guidance applies to claims for unemployment compensation benefits only. Employers are still required to make reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot be vaccinated because of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act or because of a sincerely held religious belief under Title VII, unless doing so will create an undue burden.

The DDOL also encourages employers with union employees to evaluate the applicable collective bargaining agreements before undertaking vaccine mandate programs to ensure any such mandate would not be violative of these agreements.

Comment: The Delaware Department of Labor issued guidance to employers regarding employees’ non-eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits if separation occurs due to a failure to follow an employer mandated vaccine program, announcing that these programs are generally considered reasonable in nature.

The Employment Group at Weber Gallagher can provide answers for your business. Contact us if your organization wants to develop or update a vaccine policy, needs to address requests for medical and/or religious accommodations, or if you have questions regarding vaccine-related injuries in a workers’ compensation context.

Weber Gallagher’s Employment Group previously provided guidance on disability and religious accommodations. Additionally, an article from the Philadelphia Business Journal written by Julie Kinkopf providing tips for responding to requests for religious exemptions can be found here.

On November 11, 2021, Tracy Walsh and Julie Kinkopf conducted a webinar to discuss both the OSHA ETS and CMS vaccine requirements. You can view the recording here.

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