September 30, 2021 Article

Employees Who Refuse to Comply with a Mandatory Vaccination Policy are Generally Ineligible to Receive Unemployment Benefits

Following a nationwide spike in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, an increasing number of Maine private businesses and colleges have joined the healthcare industry in requiring workers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. Vaccine mandates have met opposition around the state as some employees either refuse to comply or threaten to quit. However, employees who resign or are discharged for failing to comply with an employer's mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy generally will not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Under Maine law, employees can be disqualified from benefits for actions constituting "misconduct." Misconduct is defined, in relevant part, as the "unreasonable violation of rules that are reasonably imposed and communicated and equitably enforced." This means that if an employee is terminated for breaking company policy, the employee will be denied unemployment benefits. An employer's vaccination policy is generally considered reasonable, much like any other workplace policy. As such, according to the Maine Department of Labor and subject to a few limited exceptions, an employee who refuses to comply with the policy will be ineligible to receive unemployment benefits on grounds of misconduct. See Maine Department of Labor, COVID 19 Unemployment and Related Federal Programs.

In seeking unemployment benefits, separated employees who were either terminated or who resigned after their request for disability or religious accommodations were denied may attempt to challenge the reasonableness of the employer's policy or the reasonableness of the employer's denial. To contest such claims, employers should be prepared to document that they had a clear policy, that the employee received the policy, and that the employee refused to comply. If a request for accommodation was made, the employer should be prepared to show why the accommodation was denied.

Firm Highlights


Employers May See Increased Accommodation Requests in 2022

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a multitude of challenges for employers. As more employees return to the office in 2022—whether full-time or on a hybrid schedule—employers will face difficult compliance questions and, most likely...


Beyond Maine’s Ban-the-Box Statute: Practical Employer Considerations

In five (5) days, Maine’s Fair Chance Employment Act goes into effect.  We originally summarized the objective and impact of that legislation in an alert posted on August 11, 2021 .  Now is the...


Are We Done Yet? Managing COVID-19 in Year Three

Every business owner understands that vigilance is a critical component for managing legal and financial risks. As we all enter the third year living with COVID-19, we have collected a few of the most...


Preti Flaherty Partnership Announces Promotion to Partner of Kristin Collins and John Cronan, III

Preti Flaherty is pleased to announce that the firm’s partnership has named two new partners: Kristin M. Collins and John J. Cronan, III. Both attorneys stand out as distinguished practitioners within their respective fields...


What Do the Supreme Court's Vaccination Rulings Mean for Your Business?

Reflecting the deep rift in public opinion concerning the government’s role in dictating how businesses, health care entities and public sector employers ought to act to stem the spread of COVID-19, a divided U.S. Supreme...


OSHA Issues Long-Awaited Vaccination Rule for Large Employers

After waiting with bated breath for nearly two (2) months, employers will finally have access to OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 5, 2021...


FY2023 H-1B Season – Key Facts for Employers

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the H-1B initial registration period for the FY 2023 cap is scheduled to open at noon ET on March 1, 2022 and will remain open until noon ET...


OSHA's ETS Moves One Step Closer to Reality in 2022

On Friday, December 17, 2021, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted another appellate court’s emergency stay order, reinstating the OSHA Vaccine and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for employers with 100 or more...


Not So Fast: OSHA’s ETS in Limbo While Challenges Play Out

Over the weekend, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the emergency mandatory vaccine and testing regulations published in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  As of November 9, 2021...


Identifying and Preventing Inappropriate Comments at Work

Employers are starting to establish a new workplace normal. Employees are often returning to work in an environment that is dramatically different than the one they left two years ago. How we communicate with...