Pregnant technician says hospital fired her for refusing to get flu shot

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A pregnant vascular-ultrasound technician says she was fired from NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola after she refused to get a flu shot.

Long Beach resident Allison Labarbera, who is 4 months pregnant, says it feels like a violation of her rights. She applied for an exemption, but says the hospital rejected notes from three health care providers who stated she should not be vaccinated.

"My No. 1 priority is my baby, and I won't be bullied into something I don't believe in," Labarbera says. "I sent in those notes and it wasn't good enough and they said, 'Your only other option is to face the consequences.'"

Winthrop Hospital says it is the only hospital on Long Island that has made it mandatory for employees to receive the flu shot. It says that policy seeks to protect the health and safety of its patients.

Other hospitals on Long Island give employees the choice of either getting the flu shot or wearing protective gear, such as masks.

In a statement, hospital officials told News 12:

“NYU Winthrop Hospital maintains the highest standards to protect the health and well-being of not only our patients but our employees. When we established the mandatory influenza vaccination program many months ago, every employee was notified and given the opportunity to apply for a valid medical or religious exemption. Every exemption request was evaluated on a case-by-case basis by a panel of clinical experts and senior HR executives. It was determined that pregnancy alone was not a valid basis for an exemption. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) continues to recommend that all women receive the influenza vaccine, including pregnant women, who are at increased risk of serious illness and mortality due to influenza. This recommendation is applicable in any trimester. Moreover, as the ACOG states, ‘Maternal vaccination is the most effective strategy to protect newborns because the vaccine is not approved for use in infants younger than six months.’

“While we cannot comment on specific instances due to privacy issues, we can say that, absent other extenuating facts, an exemption request for pregnancy would not be granted. NYU Winthrop Hospital believes that, as healthcare workers, every one of our employees has a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of our patients and our fellow employees. Mandatory flu vaccination is a commitment to that responsibility.” - John Collins, President and CEO, NYU Winthrop University Hospital

Attorney Rick Ostrove says,"Employers can fire employees for all kinds of unreasonable decisions, including a decision not to take a medication."

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