A federal judge on Saturday tossed a lawsuit filed by more than 100 employees of a Houston hospital system, who objected to a mandate to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
Houston Methodist Hospital, which manages eight hospitals, gave employees until June 7 to get the vaccine or they could be suspended or fired. Last week, the system suspended 178 workers without pay.
Before that, though, 117 full- and part-time workers filed a lawsuit.
But U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston ruled Saturday that the argument from lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous” is false. The judge also said Bridges’ contention that the vaccine requirement is tantamount to the Nazis’ medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust to be “reprehensible.”
And Hughes also said that a business can require workers to get a vaccine and is not coercion, as Bridges claimed in the lawsuit.
“Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else,” Hughes wrote.
“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 said.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jared Woodfill, disagreed and 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,” Woodfill said.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not fully approved the vaccines, instead issuing only emergency use authorization. They alleged the hospital is “illegally requiring its employees to be injected with an experimental vaccine as a condition of employment.”
The complaint also cited the Nuremberg Code, which “bans forced medical experimentations, again in effect arguing that the vaccine is experimental and potentially unsafe,” Fox News reported.
Before the judge’s ruling, Woodfill said the hospital was just trying to make money. “To promote its business and increase profits at the expense of other health care providers and their employees’ health, defendants advertise to the public that they ‘require all employees and employed physicians to get a COVID-19 vaccine,’” Woodfill told ABC News.
He also claimed the vaccine is a “gene modification medical experiment,” performed without consent, and was a “severe and blatant violation” of the Nuremberg Code and Texas policy. The vaccine does not alter the recipients’ DNA.
Hospital CEO Dr. Marc Boom in April sent letters announcing that employees must be vaccinated. “Please see the HR policy that outlines the consequences of not being compliant by June 7, which include suspension and eventually termination,” the letter, which was included in the lawsuit, stated.
“CEOS of other health care institutions are calling nearly every day to ask how we are doing it,” Boom said in the note to staffers. “I hope other health care systems and employers will quickly join Houston Methodist in making the vaccine mandatory for staff. The sooner we’re able to end this pandemic, the fewer lives we will continue to lose to it and the closer we can get to normal.”
“When asked about alternative options for employees who did not want to get the COVID vaccine, Houston Methodist told ABC News that it offered ‘religious and medical exemptions, as well as deferrals for pregnant women,'” ABC reported.
This article has been updated to include additional information.