U of R plumber would rather lose job than get vaccine

ROCHESTER, NY — Workers weigh their options after President Biden’s announcement of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of larger companies.

For health professionals, the mandates are even stricter.

What you need to know

  • A University of Rochester plumber is willing to lose his job instead of getting the COVID-19 vaccine
  • “Employees who choose not to be vaccinated are really refusing to comply with employer policies and may therefore be fired,” said Kimberly Harding, a Nixon Peabody Labor & Employment attorney.
  • From September 27, the U of R will require all teachers and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19

Robert Carr has been a plumber at the University of Rochester Medical Center for 21 years. He also chooses not to be vaccinated.

“It’s a personal choice of mine,” Carr said.

But starting September 27, the University of Rochester will require all faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It doesn’t seem right to me,” he said. “It doesn’t seem right for many of our health professionals on campus and at the University of Rochester Medical Center.”

“Employers have an almost absolute right to impose benefits on employees,” said Nixon Peabody, labor and employment attorney Kimberly Harding. “…These could be certification requirements. These could be education requirements. Competency requirements. The vaccine requirement is really one of just a litany of requirements we impose, so employees who choose not to get vaccinated are really refusing to comply with employer policies and can therefore be fired.”

“I’m a plumber,” Carr said. “I hose toilets. I clean drains. I’m in the middle of that university doing the hard work it takes to keep the utilities running and I don’t interact much with people.”

“So that the state mandate really goes beyond just clinical care or bedside staffing in hospitals and other healthcare facilities,” Harding said. “It’s broad enough to certainly include contract workers and other food service people, janitors and the like. I think the wisdom of what the state would tell you, the reasoning behind this is that the delta variant that we know is highly contagious, not only affecting those who may be patients in the hospital, but we’re trying to maintain the health and safety of all employees and really only the general public.”

Carr says he is willing to sacrifice his job to avoid getting the vaccine.

“I am willing to lose my job because of the principle of my personal sovereignty,” he said.

The University of Rochester says its epidemiologists, public health experts and scientists have emphasized the effectiveness and safety of COVID vaccines.

Carr doesn’t trust that and is not confident that the vaccine is safe, and he hopes other options become available.

“There are a lot of us who feel a lot of fear,” Carr said.

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