A couple from Queens, New York was permanently furloughed from their jobs for declining to get the COVID-19 vaccine, citing pregnancy concerns. According to the New York Daily News, “Jisserlin Reyes, 33, and Sandra Balbin, 36, who are both trying to get pregnant, were let go from their catering jobs in May when they refused the jab, according to the Queens Supreme Court lawsuit.” Now the women are filing a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination and discrimination based on disability or sex.
While this is only one lawsuit, experts believe more can be on the way as pregnant women or women hoping to become pregnant are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has commented that the coronavirus vaccine is “unlikely to pose a risk” to pregnant women, but has been open that there is “limited data” and they’re still studying the effects. So far, more than 120,000 people who are pregnant have reported getting the vaccine.
Prior to their termination, Reyes and Balbin had gone to their doctor for a second opinion when their employer, Great Performances, mandated the vaccine. Their OB/GYN provided a letter stating “the safety of the currently available COVID-19 vaccine has not been established.”
The company has released a statement that they do engage in a cooperative dialogue with employees who request not to get the vaccine. There is no word if this has happened with the couple.
Pregnancy Discrimination and COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates
Though the final verdict is not likely to be reached for some time for Reyes and Balbin, many other U.S. employees are looking for guidance on what their rights are should they refuse the COVID-19 vaccine due to concerns over fertility or fetal health.
Bloomberg Law has reported that pregnancy, unlike a disability or religious objection, doesn’t necessarily guarantee accommodation from an employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), though disabilities connected to pregnancy could. This includes complications such as gestational diabetes or anemia.
However, pregnancy discrimination is a concern as well. Should an employer grant job accommodation to a person with a disability, a pregnant worker with similar concerns and health complications could argue that they should receive the same consideration.
And this truly would not be a surprise since COVID-19 lead to an increase in pregnancy discrimination claims. It is estimated that the number of pregnancy-related claims filed jumped 19% in 2020 from the previous year.
There is still a lot to be learned of the ramifications of employment law as a result of COVID-19. And Brown Kwon & Lam is here to help you through it all.
New York Discrimination and COVID Vaccine Mandates
If you have faced wrongful termination as a result of refusing the COVID-19 vaccine for a legitimate reason, you need to contact Brown Kwon & Lam immediately. We will review the merits of your case and fight for your rights in the courtroom. Contact us today for a consultation.