Unvaccinated? Don’t count on leaving your family death benefits
"It strikes me as needlessly cruel," said Mark DeBofsky, a lawyer at DeBofsky Sherman Casciari Reynolds in Chicago who represents workers in benefit disputes.
Other employers have similar concerns about providing death or other benefits to employees who refuse to be vaccinated.
In Massachusetts, the New Bedford City Council sought to extend accidental death benefits to city employees who died of COVID-19, but the mayor didn't sign that legislation because, among other things, it didn't prohibit payment if the worker was unvaccinated.
President Joe Biden has leaned hard on businesses to make sure their workers are vaccinated. In September, the administration announced all employers with 100 or more workers would be required to either ensure they're vaccinated or test employees every week for COVID-19.
Among employers, "there's a frustration level, particularly at this point when these vaccines are fully approved," said Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness, an industry group.
"You're trying to protect yourselves and your employees, both from themselves and the general public."
The New York transportation authority is the highestprofile employer to take this action. Since the pandemic crisis began in 2020, 173 MTA workers have contracted COVID-19 and died. Five of those deaths occurred after June 1 of this year, when the policy changed, according to the MTA.
The change comes as the MTA has struggled to improve vaccination rates among its roughly 67,000 workers. More than 70% of transit employees are estimated to be vaccinated, according to MTA officials.
A spokesperson for the MTA stressed that the program remains in effect, and noted that it has been extended past its original one-year term.
The only change is the vaccination requirement.