Over the last few months, I’ve noted here and elsewhere that employers can very likely mandate vaccines.
Now are starting to see the first court cases confirm this.
In a decision issued over the weekend, a federal court in Texas rejected claims by a class of workers at a Houston hospital that the hospital’s policy of requiring employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 at its expense was illegal. The case, Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital, can be found here.
The employee made several arguments. First, she argued that the vaccines are still “experimental and dangerous” and therefore she was illegally terminated. The court rejected that saying the claim is “false, and it is also irrelevant”. The court said that “vaccine safety and efficacy are not considered in adjudicating the issue.”
Indeed, the court noted that the employee was not being required to perform a illegal act — rather she is refusing to accept inoculation “that, in the hospital’s judgment, will make it safer for their workers and the patients”.
The court also rejected the argument that the “emergency use authorization” provision somehow limits what employers can do here. The court concluded that such a provision “neither expands nor restricts the responsibilities of private employers; in fact, it does not apply at all to private employers”.
But the court saved its best arguments for last. Among the anti-vaxxer’s arguments was one seen on message boards — that this requirement somehow violates “the Nuremberg Code” and that this was similar to the “forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust”. The court easily dismisses such arguments finding that the Code does not apply because the hospital is a private employer.
As for the reference to the Holocaust: “Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation n concentration camps is reprehensible. Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases death”.
Finally, the court said that the employee is not being coerced. Rather the hospital 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.” The employee can refuse the vaccine; if she does so, she will “simply need to work somewhere else…Every employment includes limits on the worker’s behavior in exchange for his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain”.
Although the decision arises out of Texas, it is hard to imagine a court in Connecticut or the Northeast would conclude differently.
Whether or not an employer should mandate a vaccine for its employees is a difficult decision that requires the employers to balance many competing factors. But ultimately, it is not illegal and getting court cases to say so should give employers more support for their decisions.