Oregon Employment Department Finds Vaccine Mandate for Remote Workers Reasonable
The Oregon Employment Department recently denied a former Nike employee’s unemployment benefit application in February 2022. The worker, who worked remotely, was fired for failing to comply with Nike’s vaccine mandate. This decision was not entirely surprising considering the Oregon Employment Department announced in August 2021 they were taking the position that “requiring somebody to be vaccinated during the midst of a worldwide pandemic is a reasonable policy” and that workers who lose their jobs for failing to comply with a vaccine mandate are not eligible for unemployment assistance. What is interesting about this decision, is that Nike’s vaccine mandate applies to all workers including those who work remotely.
The worker appealed the decision on the basis that Nike’s vaccine mandate is unreasonable when applied to remote workers. According to statements made to the Oregonian, the worker argued that if the purpose of the mandate is to protect employees from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, why is it reasonable when applied to those workers who do not come into the workplace? In response, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Employment Department stated it was the Department’s position there was no distinction between on-site and remote workers when it came determining reasonableness of an employer policy.
The worker’s appeal will be heard by an administrative law judge who will determine whether the Nike Policy is reasonable and whether to uphold the Employment Department’s denial of the worker’s specific application for benefits. If the judge upholds the Employment Department’s decision, the worker may appeal to Oregon court system.
In January 2022, the US Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine or test requirement for large private companies. Consequently, Oregon OSHA reversed it course on implementing a statewide vaccine mandate for all workers in Oregon. Generally speaking, however, private companies in Oregon are free to implement their own vaccine mandates regardless of the US Supreme Court’s holding. It remains to be seen if and how Oregon courts will address vaccine mandates implemented by private companies that are not in health care industry and have remote workers. We will be following this issue closely.
If you have any questions about vaccine mandates in Oregon, feel free to contact me at or 503-595-6115