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home : columns : dear harriette April 18, 2021

2/13/2021 3:22:00 PM
Reader concerned with mandatory vaccine legality

DEAR HARRIETTE: The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to many who choose to get it. I have decided not to get the vaccine. I just feel like it's too rushed and new, and we don't really know the effect of it just yet. I am a supervisor at a warehouse, and I received a memo that I was to tell my subordinates that in order to continue to work safely in the warehouse, every employee will be expected to get the COVID-19 vaccine and provide proof of having received it. I do not feel comfortable ordering others to do something for their health that they may not want just to keep their job. I feel like this is so wrong and possibly illegal. We are a small, privately owned company, but it doesn't feel right. How can I talk to management about how wrong I think this is? Do you think I will lose my job over this? -- No Vaccine

DEAR NO VACCINE: This is tricky, given that we are living in dangerous times, healthwise. Every company and every individual is trying to figure out what to do. You are justified in your feelings of concern about the vaccines. For you, I highly recommend paying close attention to what the medical profession is saying. Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( to get regular updates on the progress of the vaccine.

As far as your job goes, while it is not yet considered illegal to refuse the vaccine, it certainly will cause a conflict if a supervisor refuses to follow the recommended protocol and, in turn, refuses to recommend it to staff. If you look at your employee handbook, there are probably any number of guidelines that are meant to be followed; they may not be legally binding but are nonetheless expected. As a leader, if you stand your ground and refuse to follow directions, it may be grounds for dismissal or transfer out of your leadership position.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a professor, and I have been hosting all of my classes virtually, which, as I am sure you can imagine, has been challenging. Some students barely show up, and the ones that do are not paying attention. They work so hard during class to waste the time and think about anything else rather than listen to someone for one hour out of the day and learn something. I have had one particular student who fights me on everything that I require or assign. It sounds to me like he refuses to work for anything; he wants a degree without lifting a finger. I've had students like this before, but they come around because they want to get something out of a degree -- not this student. I don't know how to help him. His complaints make me wonder why he's even in college if he's against everything about it. How can I get through to this kid and figure out what is going on? -- Help Him Learn

DEAR HELP HIM LEARN: Schedule a one-on-one meeting with this student and ask him about his future goals. Ask him about how he's been dealing with the isolation. Try to get him to open up a bit about his life. Tell him that you want to help him succeed, and you are worried that if he continues to refuse to apply himself, he will not only fail the class, but worse, he will not learn information that may be valuable in the future. If he feels he cannot concentrate this semester, suggest that he drop the class rather than waste his money. Better, though, would be for him to reset his attitude and decide to pay attention.

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