A New York City restaurant has fired a waitress who didn’t get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Bonnie Jacobson, 34, told NBC News that she was terminated from her job at the Red Hook Tavern in Brooklyn on Monday after telling supervisors that she had concerns about how the vaccine may affect fertility. She said she and her husband recently started trying to have a child.
“I do support the vaccine. I’m not, as they say, an anti-vaxxer,” Jacobson said Wednesday.
The coronavirus vaccines approved for use in the U.S. are considered safe, but the CDC notes that “the actual risks of mRNA vaccines to the pregnant person and her fetus are unknown because these vaccines have not been studied in pregnant women.” Expectant mothers are encouraged to talk to their doctors about whether vaccination is right for them.
Both Pfizer and Moderna are currently monitoring people in the clinical trials who became pregnant, NBC reports.
Jacobson told the New York Post that she wants to wait for more research before getting inoculated.
“The way I see it, getting the vaccine is for me. It protects me. If I am not getting it, it’s my choice, and I’d only be hurting myself,” she told the newspaper.
Restaurant workers in New York have recently been made eligible for the vaccine, and the Red Hook Tavern informed staff of the news but didn’t say it would be mandatory. Then management told staff on Feb. 12 that all employees are required to get their Covid-19 shots; the only exception would be “If your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination,” said an email obtained by the Post.
When Jacobson said she wanted to wait to get the vaccine until more research on pregnancies is available, management emailed her back letting her know “at this time your employment will be terminated.”
“We are sad to see you go,” the email said. “If you do change your mind, please do not hesitate to let us know.”
“I just wanted more time they didn’t allow me that, I didn’t even have time to consult a physician. It was a week from being ‘your choice,’ to ‘it’s not going to be mandatory,’ to ‘it is mandatory,’ to ‘you’re fired,’” she told the Daily Mail.
Jacobson told the Post that she doesn’t plan to pursue legal action and doesn’t want her job back.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance in December that said employers can require vaccinations. Attorney Adam Mastroleo, of Syracuse-based law firm Bond, Schoeneck and King, and Cornell University law professor Stewart Schwab both told syracuse.com that such mandates are legal because at-will employees can be promoted or punished “for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all.”
Still, Red Hook Tavern owner Billy Durney told NBC News that the situation could have been handled differently.
“Once New York state allowed restaurant workers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to put a plan in place to keep our team and guests safe. No one has faced these challenges before and we made a decision that we thought would best protect everyone,” Durney said in an email.
“And, we now realize that we need to update our policy so it’s clear to our team how the process works and what we can do to support them. We’re making these changes immediately.”
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