Long-term care workers who choose not to be vaccinated against COVID-19, despite an employer requiring it, could be denied state unemployment benefits, some experts now say.

In a conference call last week, David Gerstenfeld, the acting director of the Oregon Employment Department, told reporters that there are exceptions for workers under federal law — notably a medical disability or a deeply held religious belief — but it boils down to whether an employer has a “reasonable expectation” that vaccination is necessary for a business to operate.

“In broad strokes, requiring someone to be vaccinated during the midst of a worldwide pandemic is a reasonable policy,” Gerstenfeld said. “So if somebody doesn’t follow that policy and they don’t have a good reason, it very well could result in them not being eligible for benefits.”

Although unemployment standards vary by state, many state laws say that individuals only qualify for unemployment benefits if they are out of work through no fault of their own. Many also state that anyone who resigns from a position typically cannot receive jobless benefits, Walter Foster, a member of Eckert Seamans’ labor and employment law group, told Modern Healthcare

At least one senior living employer, United Methodist Communities, has said that employees who are not fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 will be considered “voluntarily resigned” from their positions.

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