Fourth of July Free-Riders

​            Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. Hot dogs, swimming pools, and fireworks are hard to beat. It is good to feel like an American and to be proud of that fact at least on one special day every year.
            Last year was a rough one with so much uncertainty and the requirement that we keep our distance from each other. This year is shaping up to be better. We are getting our independence from the pandemic, and, thankfully, we can spend our holiday with friends and family. Even if the weather refuses to cooperate, it still will be a welcome holiday.
            President Biden was hoping to have at least seventy percent of Americans vaccinated by the holiday. It looks like we are going to fall short as a nation; although, in Connecticut high vaccination rates are keeping the most virulent variants of COVID at bay. We Nutmeggers deserve to pat ourselves on the back for that.
            I have said from the beginning that vaccines and masks are not about individual wants or needs, but rather about the public health as a whole. Each of us is obligated as Americans to take the steps necessary to ensure the public health. Those who refuse to do their part are free-riding on the backs of risk-takers who took a shot even though uncertainty remains about the long-term effects of the vaccine.
            I have little empathy for free-riders.
            Independence Day is a day when we salute and honor the original patriots who risked death for treason when they signed an official document declaring independence from colonial masters. Today, our patriotic duty is to squash the pandemic, and each of us is obligated to do our individual parts as Americans.
            As we continue to move through the summer and into the fall, the pandemic seems farther and farther removed from our daily lives. I don’t expect it to return.
            Still, some businesses are still grappling with how to deal with employees who refuse to get the shot or, alternatively, wear a mask. From my perspective, employers are within their rights to mandate one or the other, and I see courts and governmental agencies widely agreeing.
            There are some exceptions to the mandates. Religious and medical exemptions are widely accepted, and most exemptions for these reasons are routinely granted.
            As a union attorney, I have engaged on behalf of my unions with employers to discuss how to deal with recalcitrant employees who refuse to take any reasonable steps to do their part to stop the spread, feeble as the spread might be right now.
            I hear a lot about employees arguing that they have “rights” to refuse the shot. I agree. Nobody should be forced to take a shot against their will. However, nobody has a “right” to refuse a shot and keep a job. We all have difficult choices to make from time to time. Placing a job in the balance may seem coercive, but it is not illegal.
There is nothing in the constitution or our laws about that, save for the religious, medical, and union exceptions.
In the meantime, take some time this weekend to remember the original patriots. And ask yourself what you can do to honor their courage in the face of uncertainty.

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