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Texas cautions employers about requiring employees to be vaccinated

As more employers require their workforces to get vaccines, the state unemployment agency offers guidance.

DALLAS — More companies are now mandating that their employees get COVID vaccinations. But the state of Texas has a warning for employers and a possible safety net for workers who are fired for refusing to get a required shot.

The Office of the Commissioner Representing Employers at the Texas Workforce Commission publishes a newsletter called Texas Business Today. In the latest edition, the publication cautions employers that “Employees who are injured from taking a mandatory vaccine could have a Workers’ Compensation claim against the employer. For employers who do not have Workers’ Compensation, legal liability could still result from employee harm.”

The newsletter also lays out the generally acceptable and unacceptable reasons an employee can refuse to follow an employer’s vaccine mandate. 

RELATED: Yes, your boss can fire you if you don’t get a COVID vaccine

For those employees who are let go, the text offers this:

“Employees who are terminated for refusing to receive the vaccine may file for unemployment benefits. Depending on the facts of the case, an employee may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, and the employer could be charged.” 

Indeed, the Texas Workforce Commission says unemployment claims made by people who are fired for refusing their employer’s vaccine requirement will be “reviewed on a case-by-case basis."

The Texas unemployment agency’s finances…you may wish you could do this with your own bank account

Pre-pandemic, TWC had about $2 billion dollars in its unemployment trust fund. That cushion was quickly wiped out by the unprecedented number of pandemic unemployment claims. In fact, to date, the agency has had to borrow an additional $6.9 billion from the federal government to cover state unemployment benefits.

But Congress and the president recently approved a lot of COVID relief for Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission points out that states are allowed to use American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to restore a state’s unemployment trust fund to its balance on Jan. 27, 2020 or to pay back advances received under Title XII. As a result, the Texas Workforce Commission is allowing time for the governor and the legislature to determine whether the ARPA funds will be used to repay any of the federal Title XII advances and/or restore the unemployment trust fund.

I’m told state leaders haven’t yet committed to put that money back into the unemployment fund.