Unvaccinated Workers at Houston Methodist Resigned or Were Fired

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. June 23, 2021
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Houston Methodist

​More than 150 Houston Methodist employees have resigned or were fired, following the hospital system's requirement they get a COVID-19 vaccine to remain employed. The employees had two weeks to get the vaccine after they were suspended on June 8 for not following the mandate. On June 12, a judge dismissed a lawsuit some workers had filed against Houston Methodist regarding its vaccine mandate.

We've gathered articles on the news from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

Some Employees Returned to Work

Employees who complied with the mandatory vaccination policy during the suspension period returned to work the day after they became compliant, according to a hospital spokesperson. Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom said earlier this month that 24,947 employees were fully vaccinated. The hospital had reached almost full compliance with the mandate, with fewer than 200 suspended for not yet complying.

(CNN)

Claim Dismissed

A federal judge in Texas upheld the hospital system's mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy by dismissing a lawsuit that claimed vaccines against the coronavirus are experimental. The lawsuit was filed against Houston Methodist by 117 unvaccinated employees who were told to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. They argued that the hospital's requirement violated public policy, since the COVID-19 vaccines were distributed under the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Emergency Use Authorization rather than the FDA's usual processes.

In a June 12 order dismissing the lawsuit, judge Lynn Hughes of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas said, "This claim is false, and it is also irrelevant. ... [The lead plaintiff] is refusing to accept inoculation that, in the hospital's judgment, will make it safer for their workers and the patients in Methodist's care."

(SHRM Online)

Judge Cites Option to Work Elsewhere

In dismissing the lawsuit, Hughes said the employees who didn't like the vaccination mandate had the option to work elsewhere. The plaintiffs in the case have appealed the district court's decision to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The hospital had required employees to complete immunization by June 7. The following day, 178 workers were suspended for two weeks without pay for noncompliance with the immunization requirement.

(CBS News)

Hospital CEO Predicts More Vaccine Mandates

The district court's ruling was the first of its kind regarding mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies, and Boom predicted that more hospitals will enact vaccine mandates following the order. "We can now put this behind us and continue our focus on unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation," he said. "Our employees and physicians made their decisions for our patients, who are always at the center of everything we do."

(Yahoo! News)

SHRM CEO Discusses Workplace Vaccination Policies

"This is about safety," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, in an interview with CNBC's Shepard Smith. Employers must provide employees with a reasonably safe workplace, and firing employees who refuse to get vaccinated generally is a last resort. Many employment relationships are at-will—which means either the employer or the worker can terminate the employment for any lawful reason—and an employer that mandates a vaccine may say the consequence of refusing a vaccine is being fired.

Taylor noted that most of Houston Methodist's employees "were celebrating" that they had voluntarily been vaccinated.

(CNBC)

[Want to learn more? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]

Takeaways from the EEOC's Latest Vaccine Guidance

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), businesses generally may require workers who enter a physical worksite to receive a COVID-19 vaccination without running afoul of federal workplace anti-discrimination laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, employers must consider reasonable accommodations for workers who refuse a vaccine for religious or disability-related reasons, unless such accommodations pose an undue hardship on the employer's operations. Employers also should note that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state and local authorities may have different requirements.

(SHRM Online)

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Vaccine Mandate for Employers with 100+ Employees

President Joe Biden announced a series of proposals to combat the COVID-19 pandemic more aggressively, including plans for a new rule requiring employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their workers be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

President Joe Biden announced a series of proposals to combat the COVID-19 pandemic more aggressively, including plans for a new rule requiring employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that their workers be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

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