An Arkansas woman says she was fired from her job after not receiving one of the coronavirus vaccines awarded emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.
What are the details?
Samantha Wise, a mother of five children, told KARK-TV she was fired her job at Harvest Cannabis Dispensary in Conway on March 3 when her supervisors became aware that she was not going to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
"They actually did it — they really fired me — I didn't think it was really going to happen," Wise told KARK. "I knew most everybody's names that came in there. I liked making people's day. That's my main thing in life is to just make people smile."
Wise said the vaccines make her uncomfortable, explaining she has a history of experiencing adverse reactions to medicines.
"I am always that one out of every 10 or so that has a bad reaction. I am that one — so I would just rather not," Wise said. "I don't have good reaction with a lot of medicine."
"I just wish it didn't have to be this way," Wise added, saying she wished her former employer would have permitted employees to make a personal decision about receiving the vaccine, rather than forcing them to chose between the vaccine and their job.
What did the employer say?
In a lengthy statement provided to KARK, Harvest Cannabis Dispensary executive director Robbin Rahman explained the dispensary is requiring all employees to receive the COVID-19 to protect customers.
The statement read, in part:
Harvest has a policy of not commenting on the circumstances surrounding the termination of any employee. However, the former employee that is the subject of KARK's story was terminated based on a number of factors and no single factor was determinative, including whether he or she did or did not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
With respect to the COVID-19 vaccine, Harvest takes very seriously its obligation to maintain a safe environment for its patients and also its employees. This obligation has never been more relevant than over the past year, during which every city – big and small – has been in the grips of a deadly pandemic. Harvest is a medical facility and many of its patients suffer from serious medical conditions and are considered "high risk."
Is it legal?
Chris Burks, an Arkansas employment attorney, told KARK the dispensary's actions are legal.
"In Arkansas, your employer can fire you for not taking [the vaccine], unless there is an issue with a medical issue or religious belief," Burks explained.