Fired hospital employee who flouted COVID-19 restrictions denied unemployment benefits

A judge ruled that an Iowa hospital worker who was fired after repeatedly violating COVID-19 mitigation policies is not entitled to unemployment benefits, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported May 11. 

The decision, from Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Beckman, regarded a bid for unemployment benefits by Joshua Braunschweig. 

Mr. Braunschweig was in the IT department of Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in Storm Lake, Iowa, at a staff level position, not in a supervisory role. 

During his tenure at the hospital — which ended with his firing in January — he refused to get vaccinated against COVID-19, refused to be screened for coronavirus and refused to wear a mask, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch, which cited state records and evidence presented at Mr. Braunschweig's unemployment hearing.

Masking outside his office and getting the vaccine were among the policies in place at the hospital. 

Mr. Braunschweig was granted an exemption to the vaccine requirement if he wore a Max Air shield, and in 2020 had received a warning for not wearing a mask, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

The newspaper reported that he left his private office without a mask or the helmet in January, arguing in part that he did not have to wear a mask or his helmet because he was on break at the time. 

In her ruling, Ms. Beckman said "just because an employee is not actively performing his job duties while on the premises does not mean employer rules no longer apply," according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch

A hospital statement, which was shared with Becker's on May 13, said Buena Vista Regional Medical Center does not comment on specific personnel issues.

Read the full report here.

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