Should We Fire Our Unvaccinated Babysitter?


If you’ve already discussed all this with her to no avail, you may feel that the risks to your family are still high enough that you can no longer employ her. (Though, again, this isn’t an easy call, especially while the incidence of infection declines.) You admirably worry about abusing a position of power over her. But if you have a respectful conversation with her about these matters, listening as well as talking, you will be exercising your power to decide whether she continues to work with you; you will not be abusing that power.

New York City recently required private employers to keep records of employees’ proof of vaccination. My building has interpreted this mandate to apply to anyone who does any work in an apartment, even dog walkers. I am an attorney, and I do not believe this is a correct interpretation, nor do my lawyer friends.

I believe my dog walker is unvaccinated. They always wear a mask in the building and are only inside long enough to get the dog and bring her back. I am strongly pro-vaccination, and I think vaccine mandates can be appropriate. However, I do not think unvaccinated people should be denied basic rights like earning a living. Given how little time the dog walker spends in the building, they are very unlikely to infect anyone. Am I ethically required to enforce this mandate? Name Withheld

Even if this interpretation of the mandate is mistaken, the building is entitled to make rules about people who come into it for work. Omicron is extremely contagious, unvaccinated people pose more risk than vaccinated ones and the best masks reduce but do not eliminate the risk of contagion, especially in a small space like an elevator. So you can understand the rationale for this policy, whether or not you agree with it. And you can’t unilaterally amend the rules to accord with your own judgment. The right way to proceed, given your concerns, is to get the building’s management to change its interpretation of the rules, by arguing that the interpretation is unwarranted and the policy ill considered. In the meantime, compliance is hardly very burdensome if you are working from home. All you need to do is take your dog downstairs yourself and meet the dog walker outside.

I am a product of an extramarital affair. My nonbiological father has always recognized me as his own child, and I regard him as my father. But I want to know who my biological father is — out of curiosity and to find out about any family predispositions to disease, etc. — and my mother has never told me. I’d like to do a DNA test, but I am concerned about the disruption I might cause to my biological father’s family, assuming they do not know about his extramarital affair. What to do? Name Withheld

You’re right that entering your results on a DNA testing service like Ancestry, MyHeritage or 23andMe can have disruptive consequences. Although your biological father might not have joined such a site, relatives of his, including his offspring, could have. The services typically require consent for names to be exchanged. But if someone is notified that a person with a “predicted relationship” of half-sibling wishes to contact her, the cat is already part way out of the bag.

Tell your mother what you have in mind and ask her again what she’s been keeping from you. Maybe you can agree with her, in advance, about how you will use the information. It’s natural that you should be curious about your biological father; it’s understandable, too, that your mother should wish to draw a curtain over this episode. But her wishes are being satisfied at a high cost. In the internet era, you can learn a lot about someone from afar. And if you were able to contact him directly, you could do so without alerting his family.