Bonnie Jacobson, a waitress at a restaurant in New York City’s Brooklyn district was fired from her job after telling her supervisor she was trying for a baby and did not want to get the experimental Covid vaccine.
The Covid vaccines are being distributed in the U.S. under Emergency Use Authorization and, since they are not yet officially licensed as safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), they are still experimental.
On Feb. 12, 2021, the management of the Red Hook Tavern sent an e-mail to staff stating that having the Covid jab would be a mandatory requirement for all employees at the restaurant. The message said –
‘Please be advised that we will require that all employees receive the vaccination. This will be mandatory for all existing employees and any new hires. The exception to this policy will be if your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination. We encourage you to consult your health care professional to determine if getting a vaccine is right for you.‘
Bonnie Jacobson replied to the e-mail explaining that she would like to wait until more data was available on the Covid vaccine’s effect on fertility., and this was the shocking response she received from her employers –
‘At this time your employment will be terminated. We are sad to see you go. If you do change your mind, please do not hesitate to let us know.’
Bonnie said that, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her husband were trying to conceive a child but their plans had been temporarily halted in April 2020 after she lost her previous job due to pandemic social distancing restrictions for restaurants.
In August 2020, Jacobson secured a job at the Red Hook Tavern, after which she began planning to have a child.
“I do support the vaccine. I’m not, as they say, an anti-vaxxer.” she said also adding she believes there is still lack of research and data about how the vaccine affects fertility and pregnancy.
The owner of the Red Hook Tavern did not comment on the case, although the restaurant’s policy has been revised to make it clear to employees on how to obtain exemptions.
New York City’s restaurant industry is struggling to recover from the economic toll taken by social distancing restrictions placed on restaurants since the declaration of a an alleged Covid pandemic in March 2020. In the state of New York, restaurant employees became eligible to receive experimental Covid vaccines after health care workers had been vaccinated. Many restaurant owners believe that requiring their employees to get vaccinated will both protect their health but is also necessary to make customers comfortable enough to want to eat in restaurants again.
Some attorneys have noted that the issue surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations as a requirement for employment will become much more common in the near future. Lorie E. Almon, an employment and labor lawyer at a firm called Seyfarth Shaw LLP said –
“Employers are in a difficult position because on one hand, they have some duty to protect their employees and customers, and the virus is a very clear and dangerous disease that often has fatal consequences. On the other hand, workers understandably have concerns about new vaccinations of this sort.”
Almon added, “This is an issue that will come up over and over as the vaccine becomes more widely available.”
The Society for Human Resources Professional (SHRM) based in Alexandria, Virginia stated that many employers are asking if they can require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine and how to proceed if employees refuse to get it. According to the SHRM website, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) weighed in Dec. 16, 2020 with new guidance stating that employers may encourage or possibly require COVID-19 vaccinations, but policies must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and other workplace laws.
John Lomax, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, Arizona said, “An employee with a religious objection or a disability may need to be excused from the mandate or otherwise accommodated.”
The FDA’s website makes it clear that experimental vaccines distributed under an EUA cannot be mandated and recipients must be given the option to accept or refuse the vaccine –
‘FDA must ensure that recipients of the vaccine under an EUA are informed, to the extent practicable given the applicable circumstances, that FDA has authorized the emergency use of the vaccine, of the known and potential benefits and risks, the extent to which such benefits and risks are unknown, that they have the option to accept or refuse the vaccine, and of any available alternatives to the product.‘
It’s only a matter of time before we see this in the UK.
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