The Hershey Company has begun terminating employees who opted not to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.
Alongside their termination, employees are asked to sign a nine-page confidentiality agreement that would waive their rights to sue the company or talk about their experiences with the company.
The agreement Hershey wants employees to sign prohibits them from discussing the agreement's existence, terms, and conditions and contains a non-disparagement clause preventing employees who sign the agreement from speaking out.
If Hershey employees sign the agreement, they will receive a "special separation payment" determined by an algorithm that some employees say comes out to just over two months' pay. Many employees are refusing to sign the agreement and subsequently will not receive the severance payment.
The termination push comes after months of company meetings where the human resources department pushed information about COVID-19 vaccines and prodded employees about their personal lives to see if they had changed their minds about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Kim Durham, a payment analyst and sourcing buyer with the Hershey Company, while speaking with the Epoch Times, said, "I really thought I'd be OK. I thought, you cannot question my faith. Nobody can question that."
Ms. Durham requested a religious exemption from the company's vaccine policy. The company denied her request.
She said, "I thought it was behind me until September when I met with an HR representative. It was an interrogation on your religious beliefs. They twisted your words and tried to put words in your mouth. It was terrible. I was asked such personal questions that had nothing to do with religion."
The Hershey human resources department would ask employees if they had ever received a vaccination, if their children received vaccinations, and how often they attended church services. After asking if employees who refused the vaccine took over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, Tums, and Midol, the human resources department would propose that employees were, in fact, not religious due to those medications having shared ingredients with the COVID-19 vaccines.
Hershey's human resources department would tell employees that Pope Francis received the vaccine and insinuated that Catholic employees who refused the vaccines were apostates by not following his lead.
Employees with young children were asked why they would allow their children to receive vaccinations, in general, when they refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
While Hershey's corporate employees receive the jab or face termination, employees working in food production and the company's amusement park are encouraged but not required.
Ms. Durham said, "We are losing our jobs over this vaccine policy. It's just wrong that a company can terminate you, and you lose your livelihood. This should not be forced."
Whereas Hershey is opting to double down on the available COVID-19 vaccinations as a preventive health care measure, people can do more for their health by not eating Hershey products and exercising. Obesity, to which chocolate candies like those produced by Hershey Company are a significant contributor, is one of the leading indicators of negative outcomes and death among COVID-19 patients. The CDC states that obesity may triple a person's risk of hospitalization due to COVID and may increase a person's risk of death due to COVID-19 by 42 percent.