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Federal Judge Nixes Challenge by Hospital Workers, Says Employees Can Be Forced to Get Vaccine or Lose Their Job

06-14-2021
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A federal judge in Texas threw out a lawsuit filed by employees of a Houston hospital system over its requirement that all of its staff be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Wall Street Journal reported the ruling marks the first time a federal court has ruled on the legality of such an employer mandate because of the pandemic. 

The Houston Methodist Hospital system suspended 178 employees without pay last week over their refusal to get vaccinated. Of these, 117 sued seeking to overturn the requirement and lift their suspension, and threatened termination.

In his ruling, Saturday, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston deemed lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges' contention that the vaccines are "experimental and dangerous" to be false and otherwise irrelevant. He also found that her likening the vaccination requirement to the Nazis' forced medical experimentation on concentration camp captives during the Holocaust to be "reprehensible."

Hughes also ruled that making vaccinations a condition of employment was not coercion, as Bridges contended.

"Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else. If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker's behavior in exchange for remuneration. That is all part of the bargain," Hughes concluded.

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In a statement, Dr. Marc Boom, the president and CEO of the hospital system with approximately 26,000 employees, said, "We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service, and innovation."

Jared Woodfill, a Houston lawyer representing Bridges and the other clients, promised an appeal.

"All of my clients continue to be committed to fighting this unjust policy," Woodfill said in a statement. "What is shocking is that many of my clients were on the front line treating COVID-positive patients at Texas Methodist Hospital during the height of the pandemic. As a result, many of them contracted COVID-19. As a thank you for their service and sacrifice, Methodist Hospital awards them a pink slip and sentences them to bankruptcy."

Hospital employees had until June 7 to complete their immunizations.

In a Tuesday memo, Boom said that 24,947 employees had complied with the vaccination requirement and that 27 of the 178 others had received the first of a two-dose vaccine and wouldn't be fired if they got their second. The rest are subject to termination.

He also wrote that 285 other employees received medical or religious exemptions, and 332 were deferred because they were pregnant or for some other reason.

As of Monday, 43.7 of America's adult population were fully vaccinated and 64.5% received at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. deaths due to COVID-19 now stand at 597,343.

However, polling has shown that many unvaccinated people are still hesitant, according to The Wall Street Journal

As CBN News reported in late May, vaccination rates are slowing down and now some states are offering a cash prize to get more shots into arms. 

Marylanders who've been vaccinated have a chance to win $40,000 a day for 40 days or a prize of $400,000.

In West Virginia, people aged 16-35 who get the shot can register for a $100 savings bond or gift card.

And in New York, a vaccination gets you a chance to win a $5 million top prize in a new scratch ticket.

"Everybody wins. You have a one in nine chance of winning the lottery but you get the vaccine and you win," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

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