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Judge dismisses hospital workers’ lawsuit against vaccine requirement: ‘work somewhere else’

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Equating a COVID-19 vaccine requirement to something as benign as a scheduled start time, a federal judge in Texas threw out a lawsuit filed by more than one hundred employees at Houston Methodist Hospital.

In rejecting the concerns of 117 employees, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes made a rather remarkable determination.

Judge Hughes dismissed lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges’ claims that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous,” saying this was “false” and “irrelevant,” according to the ruling. More importantly, the judge said that requiring vaccines as a condition of employment is not coercion, as the lawsuit contended.

“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID -19 virus. It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer,” Hughes wrote. “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 his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain.”

The judge further stated that the lives of patients take precedence.

“The public’s interest in having a hospital capable of caring for patients during a pandemic far outweighs protecting the vaccination preferences of 116 employees,” he said. “The plaintiffs are not just jeopardizing their own health; they are jeopardizing the health of doctors, nurses, support staff, patients and their families.”

In effect, according to the judge, an employer has a right to determine what medical decisions its employees make, should a company feel the decision could impact their reason for being in business — in the interest of “saving lives,” of course.

The lawsuit reportedly compared the requirement to forced medical experiments at Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust, which prompted Hughes to call the comparison “reprehensible.”

Over 170 Methodist Hospital employees were reportedly suspended for two weeks in early June, without pay, for not meeting a June 7 vaccine deadline — the employees were given two weeks to comply or they would be fired.

Jared Woodfill, the Houston lawyer representing the plaintiffs denounced how they’re being treated by the hospital, given that many of his clients had contracted the virus in the course of their work. He also vowed to file an appeal.

“All of my clients continue to be committed to fighting this unjust policy,” Woodfill said in a statement. “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-19. As a thank you for their service and sacrifice, Methodist Hospital awards them a pink slip and sentences them to bankruptcy.”

Houston Methodist President and CEO Marc Boom announced in a memo that 27 of the 178 delinquent employees had received the first of a two-dose vaccine and would not be fired if they complete the process, Fox News reported. Overall, he said 24,947 employees complied with the vaccination requirement.

Approximately 285 employees received medical or religious exemptions, and 332 were deferred because they were pregnant or for some other reason.

Boom said Saturday in a statement: “We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation. All our employees have now met the requirements of the vaccine policy and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The statement doesn’t bode well for those reluctant to get the vaccine — the hospital has characterized them as just “a few disgruntled employees.”

Meanwhile, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is expected to hold an emergency meeting this week in response to recent data showing higher than usual rates of heart inflammation after people received their vaccine, according to KDVR Fox31.

Dr. Bill Cornwell, with the University of Colorado Hospital, told the Fox affiliate the rare condition is called “Myocarditis,” and it’s unclear at this point if there is a link to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The obvious concern is that in some way, somehow the vaccine stimulates your immune system and which then acts against your heart, causing injury to your heart,”  Cornwell said.

Tom Tillison

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