A North Carolina-based hospital system has announced that it has fired about 175 unvaccinated employees for failing to comply with a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
Novant Health said last week that some 375 unvaccinated workers had been suspended and given five days to come into compliance with the mandate. Of the 375, spokesperson Megan Rivers said nearly 200 workers were vaccinated.
“We stand by our decision to make the vaccine mandatory as we have a responsibility to protect our patients, visitors and team members regardless of where they are in our health system,” said the chain, which runs 15 hospitals and 800 clinics. “We couldn’t be prouder of our team members who made the choice to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and remain part of our team at Novant Health.”
Hospitals have been ground zero for the mandate battle. “The mass termination of unvaccinated hospital system employees is among the largest of its kind to date,” The Washington Post reported. But ChristianaCare, a Delaware health system, also announced this week that 150 employees were fired for not complying with its vaccine mandate.
Back in June, Houston Methodist Hospital, which manages eight hospitals, gave an ultimatum to employees to get the vaccine or face suspension or termination. The system later suspended 178 workers without pay.
Before that, though, 117 full- and part-time workers filed a lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston ruled June 14 that the court would not accept the argument, from lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges, that the vaccines are “experimental and dangerous” and called other aspects of the brief “reprehensible,” particularly a comparison to Nazi medical experiments.
And Hughes also noted that a business can require workers to get a vaccine, and that is not coercion under the law, despite Bridges claims.
“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.
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