As health care workers protest vaccine mandates, experts say receiving unemployment isn’t certain

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 10:02 PM CDT
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TWO RIVERS, Wis. (WBAY) - Protesters took up signs and marched outside Advocate Aurora Health in Two Rivers on Friday.

“The biggest thing that we hear is we’re anti-vaxxers and we’re not anti-vaxxers,” Jeanette Deschene, who organized several rallies in Northeast Wisconsin this week, said. “We’re out here because we’re not for the mandates. We should have a right to freedom of choice, what we do with our bodies.”

Deschene is a financial advocate for Aurora who is currently working remotely.

According to several people Action 2 News spoke with at the protest, people should have a choice on vaccinations and some health care workers said they will not budge on their stance, even if it means risking termination.

Aurora set a deadline for all employees to be vaccinated for Covid-19 by October 15. The health system previously told Action 2 News their top priority is to provide high quality, safe care for patients.

According to the majority of health experts, the vaccines are safe, effective and prevent serious illness and death from covid.

However, not all demonstrating on Friday were health care workers.

“Everybody whether it’s a state worker or a healthcare worker, whether it’s somebody who works at the foundry or works at the grocery store, should be able to make that personal decision for themselves,” Rep. Shae Sortwell, (R) Two Rivers, said.

Governor Tony Evers praised the actions hospitals have taken mandating employee vaccinations. So far in Wisconsin, eleven health systems have made such decisions.

“Our health care institutions are at the critical point and I support their decisions,” Governor Evers, (D), said during a media briefing on Thursday.

Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to pay unemployment benefits for those who resign or are fired due to vaccine mandates.

Employment attorneys told Action 2 News as the law currently stands it’s not a clear cut answer whether an employee who refuses vaccinations is eligible for unemployment. It depends on the facts of the individual case.

“If you have a religious belief or a disability that prevents you from getting it, and there could be no reasonable accommodation made, I certainly think unemployment benefits would be available,” Nicole Marklein, a lawyer at Cross Jenks Mercer and Maffei LLP in Baraboo, said.

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