A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit brought by some employees of a Texas hospital over its requirement that workers be vaccinated against COVID-19, CBS affiliate KHOU-TV reports. Nearly 200 employees at Houston Methodist were without pay last week for their failure to get fully vaccinated, per the hospital system's requirements.
Of the 178 suspended employees, 117 signed onto the, which argued that requiring workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccines "requires the employee to subject themselves to medical experimentation as a prerequisite to feeding their families," likening them to "guinea pigs."
U.S. district judge Lynn N. Hughes said in his ruling that claims that the vaccines are dangerous are "false, and it is also irrelevant." Hughes noted that Texas law "only protects employees from being terminated for refusing to commit an act carrying criminal penalties to the worker," and that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine "is not an illegal act."
Hughes also wrote in his ruling that the hospital's requirement does not violate federal law or public policy, and took issue with the lawsuit comparing the requirement to get vaccinated with Nazi medical experiments during the Holocaust.
"Equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in concentration camps is reprehensible," Hughes wrote. "Nazi doctors conducted medical experiments on victims that caused pain, mutilation, permanent disability, and in many cases, death."
In response to the ruling, attorney and conservative activist Jared Woodfill said, "We took the position that it shouldn't be dismissed for a whole host of reasons and we believe that forcing an individual to participate in a vaccine trial is illegal."
"This is the first battle in a long fight," Woodfill added. "There are going to be many battles fought. Not just in this courtroom, but in courtrooms all across the state. There are battles that are going to be fought in the higher courts, the 5th Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court, even the United States Supreme Court. So this is just one battle in a larger war. It's the first round, if you will."
Houston Methodist, which is comprised of one medical center and six community hospitals, had initially offered vaccinated employees an extra $500 back in March. At the same time, the health system was clear that, eventually, the shots would no longer be voluntary. Houston Methodist then set a June 7 deadline for all employees to get fully vaccinated. The health system said all unvaccinated workers will be terminated on June 21.
As of Monday, nearly 25,000 employees had been fully inoculated against COVID-19. Two employees who worked in management chose to leave rather than receive the vaccine. Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse, started a petition against the the policy and is leading the lawsuit against Houston Methodist.
Kate Gibson contributed reporting.