Legal, Hospitals

100+ workers sue Houston Methodist over mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policy

The lawsuit alleges that the policy is akin to forcing employees to participate in a medical experiment as none of the vaccines available have received full FDA approval. But Houston Methodist rebutted these claims saying the vaccines are safe and effective, and requiring employees to get vaccinated is in the best interest of the patient.

 

Houston Methodist, a Texas-based health system, is facing legal pushback for its policy requiring all employees to receive the Covid-19 vaccine or risk losing their jobs. In the face of this opposition, the health system is defending the policy, stating that it is the “duty” and “privilege” of healthcare workers to do what it takes to protect patients — including getting vaccinated.

About 117 employees have signed on to the lawsuit, filed Friday, rebutting the health system’s policy ordering employees to get vaccinated by June 7 or face suspension, and eventually, get fired.

The vaccination policy is forcing Houston Methodist employees to be “guinea pigs” in a medical experiment as none of the Covid-19 vaccines available in the U.S. have received full Food and Drug Administration approval, the lawsuit alleges. Though several vaccine developers have filed for full approval, none have received it as yet and vaccines are still approved under emergency use authorization only.

Further, the policy violates the Nuremberg Code, a medical ethics code established during the Nuremberg trials after World War II that requires informed consent to participate in a medical experiment, the suit claims.

The health system did not “inform its employees that they are taking part in a medical experiment and that their consent is required for this under the Nuremberg Code,” the lawsuit states. “This [vaccination], as a matter of fact, is a gene modification medical experiment on human beings, performed without informed consent.”

The primary reason for this policy is to boost profits, the suit claims. The health system is promoting this policy in its marketing materials to entice patients.

Houston Methodist denied these allegations, stating that the policy is meant to protect patients and that it is legal for healthcare organizations to mandate vaccines, as they have done with the influenza vaccine since 2009.

In addition, “Covid-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental,” said Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, in an emailed statement Friday. “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.”

As of May 28, 99% of Houston Methodist’s 26,000 employees have received the Covid-19 vaccine, Bloom said.

“We are extremely proud of our employees for doing the right thing and protecting our patients from this deadly virus,” he said. “It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way.”

Legally, U.S. employers can require all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for Covid-19, according to guidance issued Friday by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, they do have to provide “reasonable accommodations” for those who cannot get vaccinated due to religious beliefs or for medical reasons.

Houston Methodist is allowing religious and medical exemptions for those who qualify and is also making exceptions for pregnant employees or those undergoing fertility treatments, said Gale Smith, a health system spokesperson, in an email.

But the employees suing the health system want the Covid-19 vaccination policy struck down completely. They are also requesting that the court award them injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.

Photo: LarisaBozhikova, Getty Images