A recently enacted New York law specifically protects workers who refuse to provide ‘reasonable accommodations’
New York health-care workers who are fired for refusing to be vaccinated won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits — in most cases
Jin Appel can’t get on her feet, let alone work, at a New York hospital as a nurse.
“They are all fired from their jobs for refusing to give them an extra $80,” said Appel, 26, referring to the size of a deductible required to get a vaccination.
“For almost nine months, we have had to live like cats in a bag.”
The issue is public health and the authority of employers, who can enforce insurance company medical leave laws for employees, but not state laws aimed at reducing the spread of diseases that can cause paralysis, blindness and death.
A county in southern New York, Montgomery, recently sent a notice to about 50 individual lawyers that the law covering these workers was now officially in effect. It protects workers who refuse to provide “reasonable accommodations” for customers and other patients, as well as employees who refuse to get vaccinated. It was signed by the governor, Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat.
A similar bill in Massachusetts has been hailed as a strong “welcome for autonomy”. But states like Wisconsin and Texas are trying to intervene.
In Tennessee, lawmakers have adopted a bill that exempts any worker who is not vaccinated from their state’s requirement that they be inoculated against certain communicable diseases.
Appel, a registered nurse from Omaha, who chose not to be vaccinated because of a pre-existing condition, says she has good reason not to want to be pooped on.
“I can only take care of people who are sick,” she said. “This is the reason I started my own outreach and support group. I want other nurses, nurses’ assistants and technicians to know that they can also choose to not be vaccinated.”
What are they worried about? The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, asserts that vaccines for hepatitis B, meningitis, tetanus, pertussis, polio and measles are safe and effective. In its update on vaccine safety in 2015, the CDC noted that studies with newer vaccines such as those for pertussis (whooping cough) and whooping cough/pertussis (measles) have “not shown significant adverse reactions in children and adolescents”.
“There have been no scientifically supported reports of a neurological neurological disease,” the CDC states, adding that the U.S. has “fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases of measles per year”.
“Sometimes it is thought that immunization may pose a risk,” CDC states. “This is the exception, not the rule.”
But the New York attorney general’s office contends that immunization poses “an unreasonable risk”. If an employee is being trained in the best possible way, they want to see that that person can achieve the proper level of practice.
“This is basically a licensing issue,” said a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office. “When someone says we can’t work because we were hurt doing something to help others, that’s a claim for wrongful dismissal.”
Clare Marie Paul, a Tennessee state representative and member of the Social Justice Caucus, said legislation enacted in 2017 to protect the people who had conscientious or conscientious objections would be up for renewal next month. “Those cases that have the most challenges … are those who have public health implications,” she said.
Unlike the employer whose healthcare plan covers the insurance required for vaccines, Paul’s bill exempts workers who say they aren’t protected by the state’s religious and philosophical exemptions, which would apply to religious beliefs about medicine or philosophical beliefs that have nothing to do with immunization.
Many states, including Massachusetts, Florida, California, Washington and Texas, have passed legislation broadening the exemption exceptions to vaccine-preventable diseases.