The Houston Methodist Hospital required all of its employees to get a vaccine against the COVID19 virus. Some 178 employees sued. They argued, among other things, that requiring employees to accept a vaccine not fully approved by the FDA amounted to Nazi science experiments in a concentration camp. Note to future advocates: avoid over-the top rhetoric.
Judge Lynn Hughes, a federal judge, dismissed that sort of rhetoric. He noted correctly that no law prohibits an employer from requiring a vaccine for employment. He described the plaintiffs argument that the vaccine was “experimental and dangerous” as both false and irrelevant. Texas law, noted the court, only prohibits asking employees to violate criminal law. There is no prohibition for so-called “dangerous and experimental” vaccines. The judge, known for his mercurial decisions and descriptions, described the plaintiff’s complaint as “press release style.” The complaint, he noted, did not identify what specific illegal acts the employees were required to perform. Accepting a vaccine is not an illegal act.
The judge is essentially explaining at-will employment. An employer can require anything, short of asking the employee to engage in illegal acts. The remedy in Texas to unwelcome requests is to quit, or form a union. If there are 178 hospital employees upset about taking a vaccine, then they may have enough to start organizing a union.
The judge took offense at comparing the vaccine requirement to Nazi doctors. “Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases, death.” See NPR new report.
The plaintiffs say they will appeal. Good luck. The law is not on their side. They will need some luck.