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A federal judge in Texas on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit by healthcare workers who accused their employer of “unlawfully forcing its employees” to receive the COVID vaccine.
Jennifer Bridges and 116 other plaintiffs said Houston Methodist Hospital is forcing employees to get COVID vaccines that are “experimental and dangerous.” Firing employees for refusing the vaccine is “wrongful termination,” the plaintiffs said.
The hospital last week suspended nearly 200 employees who refused the vaccine.
U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled Texas law only protects employees from being fired if they are asked to commit an illegal act that carries criminal penalties. According to the judge’s ruling, “receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties.”
The plaintiffs argued requiring employees to get the COVID vaccine violates federal law because the vaccines have not received full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are still Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) products.
Hughes dismissed this claim, saying the law authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to roll out “medical products intended for use in an emergency.”
“[The law] confers certain powers and responsibilities to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in an emergency. It neither expands nor restricts the responsibilities of private employers; in fact, it does not apply at all to private employers like the hospital in this case. It does not confer a private opportunity to sue the government, employer, or worker.”
In his ruling, Hughes said, claims that the vaccines are dangerous are “false, and it is also irrelevant.”
The ruling means employees of the Texas hospital must provide proof of being vaccinated for COVID or lose their job.
Mary Holland, Children’s Health Defense president and general counsel, said the decision is “disappointing” and “there are grounds for an appeal.”
“I think the judge has misinterpreted federal law and does not fully understand the true implications of Emergency Use Authorization status. Because EUA means the product is experimental, you can’t be forced to take it. No employer can mandate the COVID vaccine while it remains under EUA.”
Jared Woodfill, an attorney representing Bridges and other plaintiffs, said his clients are “committed to fighting this unjust policy.”
Woodfill told Fox News, Houston Methodist is using COVID vaccine mandates to promote profits. The hospital is trying to convince patients to leave their healthcare provider and come to Houston Methodist because all of its employees are vaccinated, said Woodfill.
“The problem with that line of thinking,” said Woodfill, “is that you’re telling the hospital’s employees they are going to be human guinea pigs.”
For the plaintiffs, “this is a question of being able to pay their house notes, pay their car notes, provide for their families and avoid bankruptcy,” said Woodfill. “It’s just plain wrong.”
Dr. Marc Boom, CEO and president of Houston Methodist, said in a statement:
“…99 percent of Houston Methodist’s 26,000 employees have met the requirements for the vaccination mandate. It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way.”