A mother of five in Arkansas was terminated from her job at a medical cannabis dispensary for refusing to receive the new-to-the-market COVID-19 vaccine.
Samantha Wise had worked for Harvest Cannabis Dispensary in Conway up until early March when the company made vaccination against the coronavirus a condition for continued employment.
Wise told local news outlets she refused the shot because of a long history of adverse vaccine reactions.
“I am always that one out of every 10 or so that has a bad reaction,” Wise told KARK-TV. “I am that one — so I would just rather not. I don’t have good reaction with a lot of medicine.”
KARK-TV published Harvest’s policy requiring employees to receive the shots, which includes accommodations for those who cannot receive the vaccine for religious or medical reasons:
All employees, managers and owners must receive a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of continued employment. Of course, for any employee that has provided notice of a medical or religious basis for not receiving the vaccine, Harvest will attempt to accommodate such employee to the extent possible.
Wise, however, apparently did not qualify for such an accommodation.
Wise was stunned to find that her refusal to receive the shot was met with the termination of her employment contract and the dispensary asking for her to turn in her badge and key card.
“They actually did it– they really fired me– I didn’t think it was really going to happen,” she told the outlet through tears. “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.”
For their part, Harvest insists that “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’s in-house physician, Dr. Johanna Rahman, went on. “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,’” Rahman added.
KARK emphasized that state law does allow employees to be terminated under such circumstances, with few exceptions.
“A lot of Arkansans want to know– can their employer force them to get a vaccine,” Chris Burks, an employment attorney in the state, told the outlet. “The employer does have the right to a safe workplace, they have the right, they are the boss, they are in charge.”
“In Arkansas, your employer can fire you for not taking it, unless there is an issue with a medical issue or religious belief,” Burks explained.
As Wise looks ahead to an uncertain future where she must provide for her family—possibly at the risk of her own health—she told KARK she hopes other prospective employers will not involve themselves in their employees’ medical decisions: “I wish you all would let people make decisions for themselves instead of making the decision for them.”
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