A judge has sided with hospital managers who suspended 178 staff who refused to get a vaccine – meaning they face being sacked next Monday if they still haven’t had their jabs.
US district judge Lynn Hughes threw out a joint lawsuit filed by 117 of the suspended Houston Methodist Hospital system employees, who sued their employer over a requirement for all staff to be fully-vaccinated or face being fired.
The company, which runs almost 300 healthcare sites in the Texas capital, initially gave its 25,000-strong workforce a June 7 deadline to get fully-vaccinated by. While 24,947 employees did go along with the mandate, 178 staff members refused and were subsequently suspended without pay.
In a scathing ruling on Saturday, district judge Hughes quashed claims by one of the employees and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jennifer Bridges, that the vaccines are ‘experimental and dangerous’ to be false and otherwise irrelevant.
He also found her comparison of the vaccination requirement to the Nazis’ forced medical experimentation on Holocaust captives to be ‘reprehensible’.
Hughes also ruled that making vaccinations a condition of employment was not coercion, as Bridges argued in the court filing.
‘Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus’, Hughes wrote in a five-page ruling.
He added: ‘It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.
‘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.’
The judge added that Texas law only protects employees from being fired for refusing to commit an illegal act.
Jared Woodfill, a Houston lawyer representing Bridges and the other employees, said the employees are planning to appeal the court ruling.
‘All of my clients continue to be committed to fighting this unjust policy’, Woodfill said in a statement.
The treatment of the 178 un-vaccinated individuals comes as 285 employees received a medical or religious exemption from getting the vaccine by the company, while a further 332 employees were granted deferrals for pregnancy or other reasons, according to company CEO, Marc Boom.
The policy resulted in protests outside one of the healthcare provider’s hospitals in Houston. At the protest last Monday, people held signs saying things like ‘Vaxx is Venom’ and ‘Don’t Lose Sight of Our Rights’.
Some of the employees have said the vaccine mandate is an infringement on their rights.
Woodfill added: ‘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.
‘As a thank you for their service and sacrifice, Methodist Hospital awards them a pink slip and sentences them to bankruptcy.’
Speaking to The Texan, Jennifer Bridges argued that ‘no-one should be forced to put something in their body if they’re not comfortable’.
She said: ‘People trying to force you to put something into your body that you’re not comfortable with, in order to keep your job, is just insane.
‘I’m not an anti-vax person. If you want to get it, by all means, get it.
‘I don’t take that away from anybody Just let everybody have a choice and the right to make their own decision.’
The 178 un-vaccinated staff members have until June 21 to comply with the company’s demand for vaccination or face having their employment terminated.
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