HOUSTON — 117 employees have joined a lawsuit against Houston Methodist over its requirement that all employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment.
According to Houston Methodist policy, employees have until June 7 to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
The lawsuit claims Houston Methodist “is forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment,” calling the vaccine “experimental,” since it was granted emergency use authorization but has not received FDA approval.
Jennifer Bridges, a registered nurse who has worked for Houston Methodist for more than six years, spoke with KHOU 11 last month and said she planned to sue the hospital. Bridges said then she just isn’t ready to receive the vaccine and told KHOU 11 she wants more time so the FDA can gather more data and research.
“People trying to force you to put something into your body that you’re not comfortable with, in order to keep your job, is just insane," Bridges said.
“That’s been on the market for less than a year. And yes, it’s being used under EUA, but at the same time, that is experimental by definition," said Jared Woodfill with Woodfill Law Firm.
Woodfill says first, they’ve filed a declaration action, asking the court to declare that policy illegal. And then, they filed an injunction, asking to keep the hospital from firing them on June 7.
Four of the plaintiffs, all in upper level positions, have already been fired. They’re also suing for damages.
“I’m not an anti-vax person. If you want to get it, by all means, get it. I don’t take that away from anybody. Just let everybody have a choice and the right to make their own decision," Bridges said.
The EEOC said Friday employers are allowed to require the COVID-19 vaccine.
So what grounds are the employees suing on?
They say having to take this vaccine makes them part of a trial, saying it’s not FDA approved. They claim that’s what makes it illegal.
“You can’t fire someone for refusing to do something illegal, and if you look at federal law, it makes it very clear that it’s illegal to force someone to participate in a vaccine trial," Woodfill said.
Hospital CEO Dr. Marc Boom released the following statement Friday:
“As of today, 99 percent of Houston Methodist’s 26,000 employees have met the requirements for the vaccination mandate. We are extremely proud of our employees for doing the right thing and protecting our patients from this deadly virus. As health care workers, it is our sacred obligation to do whatever we can to protect our patients, who are the most vulnerable in our community. It is our duty and our privilege.
“It is unfortunate that the few remaining employees who refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first are responding in this way. It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines, as we have done with the flu vaccine since 2009. The COVID-19 vaccines have proven through rigorous trials to be very safe and very effective and are not experimental. 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.
“We proudly stand by our employees and our mission to protect our patients.”