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Arkansas woman says she was fired for refusing to get COVID-19 vaccine



CONWAY, Ark.—A mother of five was terminated from her job after she says she was uncomfortable getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Samantha Wise says she 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,” cried Samantha Wise. “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 says she had concerns about getting the shot.

She says after telling dispensary executives that she would not get the vaccine, she was told to turn in her badge and key card.

Harvest Cannabis Dispensary’s Executive Director, Robbin Rahman, did not comment directly on Wise’s termination, however, told us in a statement there were a number of factors that played a role. He also made clear as a condition of employment, everyone must receive the vaccine.  You can read the full statement below:

“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.

With respect to the Covid-19 vaccine, Harvest takes very seriously its obligation to maintain a safe environment for its patients and also its employees. This obligation has never been more relevant than over the past year, during which every city – big and small – has been in the grips of a deadly pandemic.  Harvest is a medical facility and many of its patients suffer from serious medical conditions and are considered “high risk.” Harvest’s employees encounter upwards of 500 patients per day, often serving them in a one-on-one encounter. In other words, absent a targeted program, a medical marijuana dispensary like Harvest would pose a serious threat to the very people it is designed to help. With the advice and direction of our in-house physician, Dr. Johanna Rahman M.D., we have adopted several policies to do everything we possibly can to make sure Harvest is not a vector for infection.  These policies include:

  • 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.
  • All employees, managers and owners must wear a mask at all times while inside any part of the facility;
  • All patients, customers or other visitors must wear a mask at all times while inside any part of the facility;
  • Social Distancing is enforced to the fullest extent possible; and
  • All surfaces are sanitized daily.

We understand that not everyone will agree with these policies for a variety of reasons. However, Harvest will always adopt policies that are designed to protect the health and safety of our patients and employees, no matter the circumstances.”

KARK talked with an employment law attorney in Arkansas who says 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,” said Chris Burks, an employment attorney. “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.”

As for Wise, she says it is a long journey ahead as she works to provide for her family without a job. She says 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.”

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