Texas judge tosses hospital workers' COVID-19 vaccine requirement lawsuit, says they can 'work somewhere else'

Houston hospital fires employee for failing to get COVID-19 vaccine

A federal judge in Texas has thrown out a lawsuit filed by 117 employees of Houston’s Methodist Hospital system targeting its COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

According to the ruling, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston said that lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges’ claims that vaccines are “experimental and dangerous” were “false” and “irrelevant.” Hughes also said that COVID-19 vaccines being a condition of employment is not coercion, as Bridges and the other plaintiffs contended. 

“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID -19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer,” Hughes wrote. “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 his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain.”

In addition, Hughes called the lawsuit’s comparison between the vaccine requirement and the Nazis’ forced medical experimentation on concentration camp captives during the Holocaust “reprehensible.”

In early June, over 170 hospital employees were reportedly suspended for two weeks without pay over their decision to avoid getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The suspension was in response to employees’ failure to meet a June 7 deadline to complete their COVID-19 immunization. The employees will be fired after two weeks if they don’t get vaccinated, according to FOX 4 Dallas. 

People bring signs to protest Houston Methodist Hospital system’s rule of firing any employee who is not immunized by Monday, June 7, 2021, at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital in Baytown, Texas. Houston Methodist staff who have refused the COVID-19 vaccine so far and their supporters participated in a gathering and march. (Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The hospital system’s CEO, Marc Boom, said in a memo 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. Meanwhile, approximately 285 other employees received medical or religious exemptions, and 332 were deferred because they were pregnant or for some other reason.

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.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 173 million Americans, or 52.4% of the total U.S. population, have received at least one dose as of Sunday, while over 143 million, or 43.4%, are fully vaccinated. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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