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Court Weighs in on Mandating Covid-19 Vaccine for Employees

June 14, 2021 | by B. Kevin Burke, Jr.
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Ruling affirms right of employer to terminate an employee who refuses the COVID-19 vaccine

An early court decision on the issue of employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccinations confirmed the right of employers to require such inoculation or face termination of employment.
 
In Bridges, et al. v. Houston Methodist, et al., Civil Action No. H-21-1774, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas dismissed a lawsuit brought by more than 100 employees seeking to invalidate an employer’s COVID vaccination policy “requiring employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 by June 7, 2021, starting with leadership and then inoculating the remaining workers, all at [the employer’s] expense.”

Under the employer’s new COVID vaccination policy, employees whom refused to be inoculated would be terminated.
 
The employees, most of whom are nurses at the defendant hospital, argued that the vaccines available for use in the United States were “experimental” and “dangerous.” The Court rejected that claim, noting that “hospital employees are not participants in a human trial,” and that the hospital-employer “is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving [its patients and employees] the COVID-19 virus.”

The choice to terminate non-confirming employees did not constitute “wrongful termination;” rather, the decision to terminate workers whom refused to be vaccinated “is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer.”

Employees whom refuse the vaccine are not being discriminated against or coerced, the Court found. An employee “can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refused, she will simply need to work somewhere else.”
 
We do not know yet whether this decision will be appealed. In the meantime, and as we noted in an earlier post, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidance intended to assist employers navigate whether to require COVID-19 vaccines for on-site workers.

Here is a link to the EEOC’s most recent update. 

Here is a link to my original blog outlining why employers are within their legal rights to mandate employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine. 

B. Kevin Burke Jr. is an attorney with Gross Shuman, P.C. He focuses his practice on the litigation of contract disputes, labor and employment issues, intellectual property protection, and trade secret cases. He can be reached at 716.854.4300 ext. 292 or kburke@gross-shuman.com.