Unvaccinated Houston Methodist employees appeal dismissal of vaccine mandate lawsuit

Unvaccinated employees at Houston Methodist have appealed a federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit over the health system's COVID-19 vaccination mandate, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The lawsuit, filed by Jennifer Bridges, RN, and 116 other workers, argued that the mandate is illegal and forces workers to get an experimental vaccine to keep their jobs.

But U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled June 12 that the health system did not violate state or federal law or public policy with its requirement.

"This is not coercion. Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus," Mr. Hughes wrote in the ruling, which was shared with Becker's. "It is a choice made to keep staff, patients and their families safer."

Now, Jared Woodfill, the plaintiffs' attorney and conservative activist who filed the lawsuit, believes the case should be revisited, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"This is the first battle in a long fight," Mr. Woodfill told news station KHOU earlier this month. "There are going to be many battles fought. Not just in this courtroom, but in courtrooms all across the state. There are battles that are going to be fought in the higher courts, the 5th Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court, even the United States Supreme Court. So, this is just one battle in a larger war. It's the first round, if you will."

Houston Methodist, which comprises an academic medical center and six community hospitals, was the first large, integrated health system to implement a vaccination mandate for employees.

The health system rolled out its mandatory vaccination policy March 31, with April 15 as the deadline for managers to receive at least one dose or get an exemption. More than 99 percent of the management team had complied by that deadline. By June 7, all 26,000 employees were required to comply. Those who are not in compliance will receive a two-week suspension. Houston Methodist said if workers do not comply by June 21, it will "initiate the employee termination process," according to The New York Times.

Houston Methodist President and CEO Marc Boom, MD, reported nearly 100 percent compliance as of June 8, although 178 employees, who did not get fully vaccinated or were not granted an exemption or deferral, were suspended.

Dr. Boom said 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. Our employees and physicians 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."

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