Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

A judge has ruled that an Iowa nursing home worker who resigned her job after refusing to wear a face mask at work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is not entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits.

Administrative Law Judge Jennifer Beckman ruled that Luther Manor Communities, a 103-bed nursing home facility in Dubuque, IA, was justified in denying jobless benefits to Stephanie Lindsey, a former cook at the facility, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported.

According to the judge’s ruling, Lindsey was not entitled to receive jobless benefits because she quit her job for refusing to wear personal protective equipment as required by the facility.

“(She) worked directly with a vulnerable population that was at high risk if exposed to COVID-19,” Beckman ruled. “The employer was required to have its employees wear PPE, or risk being fined by the governing agency.”

Lindsey collected nearly $5,000 in unemployment benefits after she left the facility. She will not be required to pay back those benefits, however, since they weren’t initially challenged by the nursing home operator.

Other nursing homes, both in Iowa and nationwide, have successfully challenged jobless benefits for employees who resigned or were terminated for failing to comply with COVID masking requirements.

In November, two Iowa healthcare workers who were fired from their facilities for refusing to wear face masks or get tested for COVID were denied unemployment benefits.

In October, the Iowa Legislature passed a law that allows workers to seek medical or religious exemptions from vaccine mandates and guarantees employees who are fired for refusing to get vaccinated “shall not be disqualified for (unemployment) benefits on account of such discharge.” However, the new law notably makes no reference to employees who fail to comply with masking or testing requirements performing their jobs.