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As vaccine mandates approach, employees face the possibility of having no job and no benefits

Posted at 12:31 AM, Oct 15, 2021

NAPLES — A Florida attorney says if you don’t follow your company’s vaccine mandate, don’t expect to collect unemployment.

That’s a reality many workers in Southwest Florida will be facing soon as vaccine deadlines approach.

We spoke with a nurse who used to work at the Naples Community Hospital system before the vaccine mandate went into effect. She resigned and took a job at a different healthcare provider, but for others in her position who don’t quickly find another job, attorney Ryan Barack tells us they likely won’t have a claim to make for unemployment.

We spoke with the same nurse a few weeks ago, shortly after she made the decision to resign from NCH instead of getting the shot.

She said, with the vaccine mandate on the horizon, she knew she had to be proactive.

“I would not let myself be terminated, because when I needed to look for a new job, that’s not something favorable to have on your record," said the nurse, who did not want to be identified.

Attorney Ryan Barack said, she did the right thing finding a new job first, because she likely wouldn’t have been eligible for unemployment benefits.

"An employee who either resigns from employment, or quits employment, or who is terminated for violating an employer’s published policy, in most instances that employee would not be entitled to unemployment benefits under the Florida system," siad Barack.

Barack said the only exceptions are if someone has a legitimate medical or religious exemption to the mandate. That means either a doctor has to say you can’t get the shot for medical reasons, or you need to show your faith forbids it. Barack said often that isn’t easy.

"It needs to be a bonafide religious belief. So 'I just don’t want to' really isn’t going to get you there. It needs to be a tenet of your faith," said Barack.

For the nurse we spoke with, she said she’s glad she found a job that isn’t requiring the shot, but she’s also making plans in case that changes.

“I am trying to reinvent myself, because it’s entirely possible that the mandate could affect the job that I’m currently in," said the nurse.

Just this week, NCH confirmed to us that, for the employees who did get an exemption to the mandate, they are now required to wear a special badge identifying their vaccine status.