A Texas federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Houston Methodist Hospital staff who challenged the hospital’s Covid vaccination requirement.
South Texas District Judge Lynn N. Hughes passed a ruling on Saturday that upheld the hospital’s new policy announced in April. The judge said the hospital’s decision to require vaccinations for its employees was in line with public policy.
And he denied the allegation made by Jennifer Bridges, a nurse and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, that the vaccines available in the United States were experimental and dangerous.
“The hospital staff do not participate in a human trial,” wrote Judge Hughes. “Methodist is trying to save lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It’s a decision made to make employees, patients, and their families safer. “
The judge’s decision appeared to be one of the first to advocate employer-required vaccinations for workers. Several large hospital systems now require Covid vaccinations, including in Washington, DC and Maryland.
But many private employers and the federal government have not made vaccination compulsory as they are moving operations back to office environments. Earlier this year, the U.S. Equal Opportunities Commission issued a policy that allows employers to require vaccines for local workers.
In Houston, Ms. Bridges was among those who led a strike on Monday, the hospital’s deadline for receiving the vaccine. And on Tuesday the hospital suspended 178 employees who refused to get a coronavirus shot.
As a justification for the refusal to vaccinate, Ms. Bridges cited the lack of full approval from the Food and Drug Administration for the vaccination. But the FDA, which has emergency clearances for three vaccines, says clinical trials and post-market studies show they are safe, as do the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The judge also found that Texas labor law only protects workers from dismissal if they refuse to commit a criminal offense.
“Bridges are free to choose whether to accept or reject a Covid-19 vaccine, but if she refuses, she just has to work elsewhere,” he said, also rejecting the argument that employees would be forced.
And the judge called the claim of the lawsuit that compulsory vaccination was comparable to medical experiments during the Holocaust “reprehensible”.
In a statement late Saturday, Dr. Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist: “Our staff and doctors have made decisions for our patients that are always at the center of our actions.”
The Houston Methodist said it would initiate a process to fire employees who have been suspended if they are not vaccinated by June 21.
Jared Woodfill, the worker plaintiff’s attorney, also made a statement on Saturday, according to news reports, indicating that workers would appeal the verdict.