“I’m not, as they say, an anti-vaxxer.”
That’s the line Bonnie Jacobson led with, but it wasn’t enough. The Brooklyn restaurant server was ultimately fired from her job for the sin of telling her employer she wanted to wait a little while before she received a COVID-19 vaccination, citing concerns over potential infertility risks.
The 34-year-old Brooklynite said she was fired from her job at Red Hook Tavern on Monday, just two days after she expressed some hesitancy about the inoculation, NBC News reported.
She told a local NBC affiliate she would like to consult her doctor first, as she and her husband are in the midst of trying to have a child.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the risks of the mRNA technology — used in both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccinations — “are unknown” for both pregnant women and their unborn children because the inoculations have not yet been studied in pregnant patients.
Initially, Jacobson said, her employer understood her concerns and reassured her vaccination would not be a requirement for all Red Hook employees.
But then, on Feb. 12, the restaurant pulled a 180-degree turn, sending an email to all staffers, informing them they were required to get vaccinated.
“This will be mandatory for all existing employees and new hires,” the email stated. “The exception to this policy will be if your own personal health or disability prohibits you from obtaining this vaccination. We encourage you to consult your healthcare professional to determine if getting a vaccine is right for you.”
The now-former restaurant server said she sent a reply email to her boss, saying she did not want to get the vaccine at this point and needed more time for additional information to come out.
“While I fully support the vaccine and understand its importance,” she wrote in an email to her boss, “I do believe this is a very personal choice. I really hope this choice would not affect my employment at Red Hook Tavern. Also, once there is more research to support that it does not affect fertility, I would reconsider my position.”
Two days later, Jacobson was fired.
The young New Yorker said she was “honestly shocked” by the way her boss at Red Hook treated her.
“My gut reaction was to just say, ‘OK, fine. I’ll get it I need my job,’” Jacobson recalled. “But that just didn’t sit right with me. I was like, ‘Actually, I don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s the choice I need to be making here.’”
Now, Jacobson said she has no interest in getting her job at Red Tavern back.
She’s hoping her story will encourage business owners to approach mandatory vaccinations differently.
“I think it’s important for other business owners to see this and tread lightly, and take into more consideration their employees’ feelings, especially if your employees have been working for you — putting themselves in danger — throughout a pandemic.”
Billy Durney, owner of Red Hook Tavern, is now claiming the restaurant could have handled the situation differently. He said he thought the mandate “would be protect everyone,” though he now says he “realize[s] 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.”
It’s not clear whether the restaurant is still forcing all employees to get vaccinated.