A Queens couple says they were both permanently furloughed from their jobs for declining to get the COVID-19 vaccine over pregnancy concerns, according to a new lawsuit.
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 filed Monday.
The women said they were concerned about how the shot could affect people trying to conceive.
“I don’t want to take any risks. I am two weeks from getting inseminated,” Balbin told the Daily News. “The vaccine is too new. They are still collecting data on how the vaccine reacts on pregnant women.”
Balbin and Reyes were both stocking food and prepping meals as catering attendants for Great Performances/Artists As Waitresses, Inc. until their bosses informed them that May 28 would be their last day. The company mandates the COVID vaccine for its employees, the women said.
“I was actually really scared when the person from HR called me … I was almost having a panic attack, crying,” Balbin said.
She said the company’s insurance was going to help pay for the fertilization she needed to get pregnant. “Now I don’t feel like I have the money to do this,” said Balbin.
The couple filed a lawsuit against Great Performances on Monday alleging wrongful termination and discrimination based on disability or sex.
Balbin had worked for the catering business throughout the pandemic, while Reyes started a few months ago. Balbin said she was fine wearing a mask, social distancing and getting tested for the virus twice a week, which the company already required.
The concerns started when she and Reyes began trying to get pregnant through intrauterine insemination.
Balbin and Reyes said they went to their doctor for a second opinion when Great Performances ordered them to get the shot. Their OB/GYN provided a letter In April stating that “the safety of the currently available COVID-19 vaccine has not been established.”
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says the COVID vaccine is “unlikely to pose a risk” to pregnant women, but officials note there is “limited data” and they’re still studying the effects.
More than 120,000 people who are pregnant have reported getting the vaccine, according to the CDC.
The two women opted not to get the shot, at least until after they gave birth.
“It’s basically my body, my choice,” said the women’s lawyer, David Schwartz. “This is all about bodily autonomy and the right of an employer to mandate the vaccine … To fire them under these circumstances is equivalent to a wrongful termination.”
Great Performances/Artists As Waitresses, Inc. said they engage in a “cooperative dialogue” with employees who request not to get the vaccine.
“It is Great Performances’ policy to refrain from further comment in the media about current litigation, except to clarify that Great Performances has not violated the law,” said spokeswoman Shelley Clark in a statement.