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A New York City waitress says she was fired from a popular Brooklyn restaurant after choosing not to get the COVID-19 vaccine for fear it might hurt her chances of getting pregnant.
Bonnie Jacobson, 34, told The Post that the management at Red Hook Tavern canned her on Monday because she balked at getting the shot immediately.
“It was shocking to me,” she said Wednesday. “I went through the stages: I’m hurt, I’m in shock — then I got mad.”
Jacobson, who has been married since October 2019, stressed that she’s not an anti-vaxxer and “fully supports” people being inoculated, but said she wants to wait for more research on the coronavirus vaccine’s possible effects on fertility.
“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 said.
The coronavirus vaccines available haven’t been tested on pregnant women, but also haven’t been shown to affect pregnancy and are viewed as generally safe.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that getting vaccinated is “a personal choice for people who are pregnant” and that expecting mothers can speak to their doctors about whether it’s right for them.
Restaurant staffers in New York joined the list of people eligible for the shot earlier this month.
Not long after, management at the buzzy Brooklyn eatery emailed staffers to let them know they were eligible, and later said the vaccine would be “mandatory” for all employees.
The only exception to the policy would be, “If your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination,” read the Friday email, reviewed by The Post.
Jacobson — who began working at the restaurant in August after being let go from women’s co-working space The Wing in the beginning of the pandemic — responded that she was “choosing not to get the vaccine because there just isn’t enough data or research at this point on its effects on fertility.”
“Once there is more research to support that it does not affect fertility I would reconsider my position,” she wrote.
But on Monday, after having worked a 13-hour shift on Sunday for Valentine’s Day, Jacobson learned she was getting booted over her choice.
Tavern management wrote to her saying that while they respected her choice, getting the shot was required and that “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.”
Jacobson said she felt blindsided.
She noted that she’d toiled for the restaurant through the pandemic and learned to adapt to coronavirus restrictions, such as working outside “in the freezing cold.”
“I’ve been trooping along with them,” she said. “I was expecting to be met by the same flexibility and compassion.”
While, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in December said companies could require workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, employment lawyers said they hadn’t heard of a case like Jacobson’s before, according to WNBC, which first reported on her firing.
“This particular subject is a really hot topic right now,” employment attorney Felicia Ennis told the station, adding, “I haven’t heard of a company taking that extreme of a step.”
The restaurant on Wednesday said it was still requiring workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but said it would change its policy for employees requesting an exemption.
“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,” owner Billy Durney said in a statement.
“No one has faced these challenges before and we made a decision that we thought would best protect everyone,” he said. “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.”
Jacobson told The Post she doesn’t plan on pursuing legal action and doesn’t want her job back.
“Its a good restaurant, the food is excellent, the money is great [but] I think I want to take a minute for myself,” she said.
She and her husband, who were married in October 2019 and have been together for nine years, are “family planning” and she wants to focus on that, Jacobson said.
Jacobson expressed some hesitation about her choice not to get vaccinated immediately, and said that she would get the shot in the future, “once more data is out there.”
“The way I see it, maybe I need to be better informed,” she said.
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