Healthcare workers who lose their jobs after refusing to get the COVID vaccine may not be able to collect unemployment benefits.

Healthcare workers are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of October. Governor Janet Mills' mandate states that any healthcare worker who doesn't get the vaccine will lose their job.

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Now, labor officials say that any healthcare workers who lose their jobs due to non-compliance with the mandate may not be eligible for unemployment. Typically, any worker who loses their job over a refusal to comply with their employer's requirements does not qualify for benefits. This would include the requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the AP, Maine Department of Labor spokesperson Jessica Picard explained the update on Thursday.

Refusing to comply with an employer's policies, including a health or safety policy, typically disqualifies a person from being eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

She went on to say that healthcare workers who have lost their jobs should still file for benefits, because each unemployment claim will be reviewed, on a case-by-case basis.

Appeals to stop the mandate have fallen on deaf ears, as a federal judge refused to put an end to it earlier this week. Many healthcare workers have already quit their jobs, rather than get the shots. Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston closed one department and started curtailing admissions because of staffing shortages. State agencies are working with healthcare facilities around the state, to help them deal with reduced staff.

Governor Mills announced the mandate on August 12th, for hospitals, nursing homes, dental practices, and shelters. There's a medical exemption but there are no religious or philosophical exemptions.

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