A federal judge ruled Friday that St. Elizabeth Healthcare, a healthcare provider in Cincinnati, has authority to require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This appears to be the first ruling in the US involving a request for an injunction against a private employer’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The employees of St. Elizabeth hospital must receive the COVID-19 vaccine by October 1 or submit a request for a medical or religious exemption. Failure to comply with the mandate could result in termination.
Employees of St. Elizabeth Healthcare requested the court to temporarily bar the hospital’s vaccine mandate. US District Judge David Bunning upheld the mandate because the employees failed to establish that the vaccine requirement violated their individual liberties, as the hospital operator has the right to set employment terms.
“If an employee believes his or her individual liberties are more important than legally permissible conditions on his or her employment, that employee can and should choose to exercise another individual liberty, no less significant – the right to seek other employment,” wrote Bunning.
Bunning also stated that the plaintiffs made it clear that they were suspicious about the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations, but “suspicions cannot override the law, which recognizes Defendants’ right to set conditions of employment.”
In his ruling, Bunning referenced Jacobson v. Massachusetts, a 1905 Supreme Court case that allowed Cambridge, Massachusetts, to mandate vaccinations during the smallpox pandemic. “Jacobson and its holding have not been overturned by the Supreme Court, and this Court will thus abide by it and its principles,” Bunning wrote. “Actual liberty for all of us cannot exist where individual liberties override potential injury done to others.”