Updated Jun 12, 2021 - Health

Lawsuit challenging Houston Methodist's COVID vaccine mandate dismissed

A man walks past the Houston Methodist Hospital on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A federal judge on Saturday dismissed a lawsuit brought by 117 Houston Methodist staff over the hospital's policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: This is the first federal court ruling on a coronavirus vaccine mandate. Attorney Jared Woodfill, representing the plaintiffs, told KHOU 11 it's "the first battle in a long fight," as he vowed to file another lawsuit soon.

Driving the news: U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes noted in the ruling that the federal government has advised that companies can require workers to get vaccines.

  • He rejected the lawsuit's argument that the mandate of the hospital in Houston, Texas, was unlawful.
  • "This is not coercion," Hughes said. "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."
  • Hughes called the plaintiffs' argument equating the injection requirement to medical experimentation in Nazi concentration camps "reprehensible."

The big picture: Houston Methodist suspended 178 employees without pay for 14 days last Tuesday for failing to comply with the mandate.

  • Hughes earlier this month denied the plaintiffs' request for a temporary restraining order to block the suspension.
  • The judge said the public interest in "caring for patients during a pandemic far outweighs protecting the vaccination preferences of 116 employees," noting the staff were "jeopardizing" their own health" and that of others.

What they're saying: Houston Methodist said in an emailed statement that it was pleased the judge had dismissed the "frivolous lawsuit" that "falsely claimed" COVID-19 vaccines were unsafe.

  • The hospital pointed to the administering of over 300 million doses in the U.S. and falls in positive cases and hospitalizations as proof that vaccines do work.
  • Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist said in the statement: "We can now put this behind us ... All our employees have now met the requirements of the vaccine policy and I couldn't be prouder of them."
  • Read the judge's ruling in full, via DocumentCloud:

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout and to correct the gender of the judge.

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