SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB / WSHM) – A Springfield Children and Families Department employee spoke exclusively to Western Mass News. She is now on suspension without pay after her medical exemption from Governor Charlie Baker’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate was denied.
âI had to put all my stuff, all my equipment back on my electronic devices at the office,â she told Western Mass News. “They send you a letter that says you refuse to have it or tell them you get it and which one you get and when, but that’s not an option for me.”
Wishing to remain anonymous, she said her doctor wrote a note exempting her from the requirement because she is allergic to components of the COVID-19 vaccine, which makes the vaccine potentially fatal for her. However, on Friday she received a letter from the state which said, in part:
âYou have successfully demonstrated a medical contraindication to the COVID-19 vaccine. Your request for exemption is denied because your request constitutes undue hardship for the agency. Accepting your request would increase the safety risks in the workplace and negatively impact safety planning. â
The letter gave him three days to get the vaccine until a five-day suspension began on Monday, then a 10-day suspension. If she still doesn’t get the hit after that, she will be fired.
âAll I asked was to do my job as I did throughout the pandemic. How can you tell me that I am a burden and a security risk when I have been working on all of this since day one, âshe said.
Western Mass News contacted Governor Baker’s office, which did not provide information on the number of approved medical exemptions, but said in part:
“The administration makes every effort to work with a small number of employees who are not yet in compliance and continuously reviews outstanding exemption requests.”
According to the state, to date, more than 39,000 employees have been vaccinated or received an approved exemption. More than 2,000 other employees are awaiting a decision or have just been refused and have three more days to be vaccinated before receiving a letter of suspension. More than 300 employees have already been suspended and more than 100 employees have resigned.
âI’m not trying to get out of it, I’m not making things up. I can’t get it and they tell me the only thing I can do is get it, âthe DCF employee told us. “It’s overwhelming and other than me, what am I supposed to do?” I literally feel like I have no options.
Western Mass News turned to Senator Eric Lesser for answers. He has received calls from other officials who have also been denied exemptions. Lesser said the legislature had no plans to deal with the refusals because it was an executive order, but said the decision could be overturned.
“It can be appealed and then it’s reviewed by a higher level manager,” Lesser explained.
However, for people who are physically unable to get vaccinated safely, time is running out.
“How am I supposed to pay my bills or find another job if everyone’s imposing a vaccine that I can’t get?” The DCF employee asked.
We have contacted the governor’s office again to see how many medical exemptions have been approved and on what basis they are based for approving them, but we have not received a response.