“It is a choice made to ensure the safety of staff, patients and their families.”
A Texas judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Methodist Hospital in Houston over its policy that required all staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to be suspended.
The hospital has set a June 7 deadline for its 26,000 employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus so that its facilities can be safe from the virus and provide patients with the best protection, according to Houston Methodist.
However, 117 employees, including nurse Jennifer Bridges, claimed that the hospital “illegally required its employees to be injected with an experimental vaccine as a condition of employment,” according to the complaint filed in late May.
In her five-page ruling released Saturday night, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint that COVID-19 vaccines were unsafe.
“This is not coercion. Methodists are trying to save lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safe,” Hughes wrote .
The judge added that Texas law only protects employees from unfair dismissal if they refuse to do an illegal act.
“Bridges does not specify what illegal act she refused to do, but in the style of the press release of the complaint, she said she refused to be a ‘human guinea pig’,” Hughes wrote. “Receiving a vaccine against COVID-19 is not an illegal act. “
Jared Woodfill, the attorney representing the plaintiffs, told ABC News in a statement that he plans to appeal the decision. Woodfill, who has also filed lawsuits against mask warrants and blockades in Texas on behalf of clients, said the case is “just one battle in a larger war to protect employee rights to not not be forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition of employment. “
“All of my clients continue to be committed to fighting this unfair policy,” he said in his statement.
By the end of the June deadline, 24,947 hospital workers – 96% – had been vaccinated, according to a spokesperson for Houston Methodist. 178 employees have been suspended for not receiving their vaccines on time, and they will have until June 21 to get vaccinated before being made redundant, the spokesperson told ABC News on Sunday.
As of June 11, at least 27 suspended employees have received their first injection, the hospital told ABC News.
“Our employees and physicians have made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do. They have fulfilled their sacred obligation as healthcare workers, and we couldn’t ask for a more dedicated, caring and talented team, ”said Dr. Marc Boom, President and CEO of Houston Methodist, in a statement. .
Elizabeth Sepper, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told ABC News that the hospital’s mandate had an airtight legal basis since the emergency vaccine authorization status was not not a sufficient reason for employees to withdraw.
She added that the hospital’s high success rate in vaccinating its staff may prompt other health organizations to issue a warrant, unless prohibited by state and local ordinances.
“The other obvious place we would see vaccination warrants is, of course, schools and universities, but the government. [Greg] Abbott’s order banning schools from mandating vaccines bypassed this tool, ”Sepper told ABC News.
Doctors and health experts have said COVID-19 vaccination rates have led to a significant drop in cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the past two months. As of Sunday, more than 143.1 million Americans, or about 43.1% of the population, were fully immunized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Houston, 1.7 million people were fully vaccinated on Sunday, according to the Harris County COVID-19 data center.
Anyone who needs help scheduling a free vaccine appointment can log on to vaccines.gov.