Monday, June 14, 2021

Coronavirus Update 6-14-2021: It took all of 12 days for 117 employees to learn what it feels like to lose a lawsuit in spectacular fashion

Twelve days ago I predicted that the 117 hospital workers suing their employer over its mandatory COVID-19 vaccine would lose their lawsuit in spectacular fashion. 

I love it when I'm very, very correct. 

Over the weekend, Judge Lynn Hughes of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a pointed five-page opinion that eviscerated the plaintiffs' arguments and dismissed their lawsuit. The losers vow to appeal and fight on. To quote one of my law school professors, I say, "Too bad, so sad, hard cheese."

Here's what I predicted about this case and the plaintiffs' arguments, and here's what Judge Hughes had to say.

1/ Mandatory vaccine policies are 100% legal.

Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is not an illegal act, and carries no criminal penalties. … On May 28, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that employers can require employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 subject to reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs that preclude vaccination.

2/ Public policy actually favors getting as many individuals vaccinated as possible.

The hospital's employees are not participants in a human trial. They are licensed doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and staff members. The hospital has not applied to test the COVID-19 vaccines on its employees, it has not been approved by an institutional review board, and it has not been certified to proceed with clinical trials. …

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. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else.

3/ Invoking the Nuremberg Code in this context is wrong and offensive. For this argument, Judge Hughes saved his most scathing rebuke.

The Nuremberg Code does not apply because Methodist is a private employer, not a government. Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible. Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that causes pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and, in many cases, death.

Finally, I'll leave you with what is the most central reason this lawsuit failed—these are at-will employees. Their employer does not owe them a job, period.

Bridges has not been coerced. Bridges says that she is being forced to be injected with a vaccine or be fired. This is not coercion. … 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 his remuneration. That is all part of the bargain.
End scene.