NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WTVF) – A new bill from GOP State Representative Rusty Grills wants to offer unemployment benefits to those who have resigned or been fired for their company’s vaccination mandate.
Grills, which represents District 77, introduced HB 8003 on Monday and, as the bill states, the aim is to ensure that a vaccine does not hamper benefits for those who would otherwise be eligible.
The bill also states that these workers should be entitled to the same amount of benefits, which in July fell to $ 275 / week in Tennessee. Governor Bill Lee pulled Tennessee from all federal unemployment programs this summer, leaving only the state program behind. GOP leaders agreed with the governor that having these extra benefits available, which in its heyday paid nearly $ 600 / week, offered little incentive for people to return to work. The change also meant that there were no more payments for self-employed workers newly eligible for benefits under federal programs.
While this new bill focuses on eligible people, other similar bills in the past have attempted to prohibit state and local government entities from requiring vaccination as a condition of employment.
Senate Bills 186 and HB 0172 were introduced earlier this year by State Senator Janice Bowling and State Representative Bud Hulsey. Both bills were stuck in committees, but House Speaker Cameron Sexton said this when asked about the latest proposal.
“One of the things we’re going to try to do this time is we can try to undo President Biden’s stuff he’s trying to do through OSHA and do some type of project. of overturning law and pushing back the federal government, âSexton mentioned.
On September 9, President Joe Biden unveiled a plan that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would require all employers with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their staff or perform weekly COVID-19 tests.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), private companies requiring a vaccine must also provide housing for qualified religious and medical exemptions.
As more companies make COVID vaccines a requirement, we’ll likely see more lineups at immunization clinics across the state. Now the question is, can those who retire still be unemployed even without this new bill?
Labor attorney Michael Elkins said that while each state has its own rules about this, quitting your job or being fired because you have withdrawn from a workplace policy could be. qualified as misconduct.
âThis kind of logic makes sense. Why should you get paid if you make a mistake? Now, what constitutes a fault? It’s different state by state, âElkins said.
The Tennessee Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development has its own way of defining misconduct. It is their position that refusing the vaccine alone is not considered a fault if your job suddenly came with this new policy making the COVID vaccine mandatory. At this rate, they believe that “the employer has significantly changed the terms of the employment contract.” This means that you are not automatically disqualified from unemployment benefits.
If you accept a job offer with a company with an already established vaccination mandate and later refuse to be vaccinated, you will not be eligible for benefits. Their statement goes on to say, âAs with all internal employment policies, the onus is on the employer to ensure timely and sufficient compliance. However, these positions are subject to change should any state or federal law or regulation change. “
President Sexton says he and other GOP lawmakers plan to organize an appeal with other states to compare what they have done with what Tennessee intends to do with vaccination measures against the COVID.
“The call is open for us to have a discussion where we can talk about everything we need about business and vaccinations and hopefully in a week or two we’re going in a direction in which we want to send to Tennessee, âSexton said.
States like Michigan, Washington, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania have virtually carbon copies of the same bill, but Elkins says it’s no surprise those haven’t yet become law.
âI think you might have a situation where you get a slippery slope. Where other policies suddenly become non-misconduct, âElkins said.
Now for the other question, what if you left because you thought your business wasn’t secure enough?
You may still be eligible, but current TDLWD policy makes no guarantees.
Elkins says it’s worth applying for benefits anyway. In his experience, some companies have chosen not to challenge your claim to the state. Which means you have a much better chance of getting approved.
Although each case is different, one thing remains certain. It is a debate that is far from over.