A federal judge in Texas dismissed a lawsuit Saturday by 117 hospital employees who sued Houston Methodist over its requirement that all employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The hospital employees who refused to be vaccinated were placed on unpaid suspension on Monday. The employees were told that they would be fired if they were not vaccinated by June 21.
US District Judge Lynn Hughes dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that federal law does not prohibit employers from mandating that all employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges, a nurse, argued that the vaccine mandate violates due process, workers are being coerced, and that employees are being required to take an “unapproved” medicine. The plaintiffs compared the vaccine mandate to forced medical experiments in Nazi Germany.
Hughes rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments, explaining that due process is not violated because this is at-will employment. Employees are free to reject the vaccine and simply work elsewhere. The requirement is not coercion because “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 families safe.” The COVID-19 vaccine is not “unapproved” because federal law permits the Secretary of Health and Human Services to introduce medical products intended for emergency use into interstate commerce. Lastly, “equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible,” Hughes wrote.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jared Woodfill, intends to appeal the ruling. Woodfill stated that “this is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment.”
Other major hospitals, including the University of Pennsylvania and New York Presbyterian, have followed Houston Methodist’s lead and enacted vaccine mandates. Many hospitals and employers were waiting for legal clarification before enacting vaccine mandates.