Refusing COVID Vaccines
Can I Work as a Nurse and Refuse the Covid Vaccine?
Substitute doctor, nurse’s aide or other healthcare professional roles, and the question is still the same. A May 2021 lawsuit fi led on behalf of 117 Houston-area healthcare workers asserted that the Methodist Hospital System’s mandate that all employees get vaccinated violated the Nuremberg Code and U.S. Statutes for forcing employees to get “unapproved” medical treatments. It also alleges the mandate violates Texas laws.
Although these individuals are a small minority of 26,000 employees, they’ve become an angry, vocal, and active group. The suit raises several questions:
- What are the obligations of an employer to pay unvaccinated people to come to work?
- What are the obligations of the employee to receive the vaccination?
- Why would people potentially exposed to Covid refuse the vaccine?
- Can a plaintiff sue an employer who does not mandate vaccinations for employees?
The lead plaintiff , Jennifer Bridges RN, told Houston CBS TV KHOU station that it is insane that people tell her she has to put something inside her body with which she is not comfortable, just to keep her job.
The lawsuit referred to the Covid vaccines as “experimental gene modification vaccines”, and by forcing healthcare workers to take it, treats them as human guinea pigs. Because the hospital system advertises that all employees are vaccinated, the hospital is putti ng “profits over people”, the plaintiffs asserted. The suit alleged wrongful discharge and a violation of the at-will employment doctrine’s public policy exception. It sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees. Employees Sue Houston Hospital over Vaccine Mandate (lawandcrime.com)
Is this insane, as Bridges and the other plaintiffs assert?
The Employer’s Perspective
Dr. Marc Bloom, the CEO and President of Houston Methodist responded to
the lawsuit with the following statement:
“As of today, 99 percent of Houston Methodist’s 26,000 employees have met
the requirements for the vaccination mandate. We are extremely proud of
our employees for doing the right thing and protecting our patients from
this deadly virus. As healthcare workers, it is our sacred obligation to do
whatever we can to protect our patients, who are the most vulnerable in our
community. It is our duty and our privilege.
“It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get
vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way. It is legal for
health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu
vaccine since 2009. The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous
trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental. More than
165 million people in the U.S. alone have received vaccines against COVID-
19, and this has resulted in the lowest numbers of infections in our country
and in the Houston region in more than a year.” 117 employees file lawsuit
against Houston Methodist for mandating workers to take COVID-19
The lawsuit highlighted the objections a percentage of the adult population
has to receiving the vaccine.
A report detailing the objections noted that people are afraid of infertility,
being injected with a microchip, having their DNA changed by the vaccine,
being more susceptible to autoimmune disease, or receiving aborted fetal
cells. These are all scientifically unfounded fears according to the article in
the Washington Post. Tackling fears about covid vaccines’ safety and
development – The Washington Post
In June 2021, a federal judge, Judge Lynn Hughes, dismissed the lawsuit and
upheld the hospital’s policy to mandate inoculations for its employees. “The
hospital’s employees are not participants in a human trial. 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.” He
noted Texas employment law only protects employees from termination for
refusing to commit an act that carries criminal penalties.
Hughes found Houston Methodist’s vaccine mandate is not coercion, just a
term of employment, the same as a requirement to show up to work on
time. If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office earlier start time, or
some other directive, he may be properly fi red”, he wrote in his dismissal order.
Covid Vaccine Mandate Survives Hospital Employee Challenge –Courthouse News Service
The judge also commented on the more flamboyant language in the complaint by calling it reprehensible that the plaintiff s contended that a vaccination requirement was akin to medical experimentation during the Holocaust. Judge Dismisses Houston Hospital Workers’ Lawsuit Over Vaccines – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
The next step is termination of employees who would not accept the vaccination, and an appeal by the plaintiff s’ layer, Jared Woodfill.
What do you think? Should the healthcare workers have the right to refuse the vaccination and still keep their jobs? Would you want to get care from an unvaccinated nurse
Mindy Cohen, MSN, RN, LNCC
Kimm Ebersole, MHA, BSN, RN