CONWAY, Ark. (KARK) — A mother of five was terminated from her job after she says she was uncomfortable getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Samantha Wise was fired March 3, 2021, from Harvest Cannabis Dispensary in Conway.
“They actually did it — they really fired me — I didn’t think it was really going to happen,” Samantha Wise said. “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.”
Wise says the dispensary made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for all employees. However, she said, she had concerns about getting the shot.
“I am always that one out of every 10 or so that has a bad reaction. I am that one, so I would just rather not,” Wise said. “I don’t have good reaction with a lot of medicine.”
She said after telling dispensary executives that she would not get the vaccine, she was told to turn in her badge and key card.
An employment law attorney in Arkansas said their office has been inundated with people calling about the legality of employers requiring the COVID-19 vaccine.
“A lot of Arkansans want to know can their employer force them to get a vaccine,” attorney Chris Burks said. “The employer does have the right to a safe workplace. They have the right, they are the boss, they are in charge.”
Burks says there are a few exceptions. “In Arkansas, your employer can fire you for not taking it unless there is an issue with a medical issue or religious belief.”
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Wise said it is a long journey ahead as she works to provide for her family without a job. She said she hopes employers in the future won’t make individuals choose between a career or the vaccine.
“I wish you all would let people make decisions for themselves instead of making the decision for them,” she said.
Harvest Cannabis Dispensary’s Executive Director Robbin Rahman did not comment directly on Wise’s termination but released a statement saying there were a number of factors that played a role.
“Harvest has a policy of not commenting on the circumstances surrounding the termination of any employee. However, 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.”
He also made clear that as a condition of employment, everyone must receive the vaccine: “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.”