The dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Texas hospital workers who challenged their employer’s requirement to vaccinate against Covid-19 could encourage other companies to force injections on their employees, experts said Monday.
But it remains to be seen whether they will.
Few companies are keen to require vaccinations for returning workers “mainly because it has become a political issue rather than a medical issue,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of the outplacement and Coaching Center based in Chicago. Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
“In our most recent survey, only 3% planned to make vaccinations mandatory for workers returning to the office, ”said Challenger. “Most companies want to know their employees are vaccinated, but they take a carrot-than-stick approach, offering incentives like extra vacation days. Or they let vaccinated workers not wear masks in the office. “
That said, there are “many precedents” for hospitals in particular to require workers to be vaccinated, Challenger said. “Flu shots, for example,” he said.
NBC News legal analyst Danny Cevallos agreed.
“This decision comes as no surprise,” Cevallos said of U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes’ decision, which was announced on Saturday and which upheld the Houston Methodist Hospital’s requirement that all staff members are vaccinated. “It’s a fairly established law. “
In May, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “issued guidelines that private employers can require workers to be vaccinated, and this decision essentially affirms that,” Cevallos said.
So does this mean that all companies can now go ahead and impose vaccines on all workers?
“They might already,” Cevallos said. “But of course there are exceptions, like if a person has a disability and cannot be vaccinated, or if there is a case of discrimination. For example, a company cannot require black employees to be vaccinated. “
Businesses need to do what’s called reasonable accommodation for people who have legitimate medical reasons for not getting vaccinated, “and since the start of the pandemic, there has been a lot of debate about what constitutes accommodation. reasonable, ”Cevallos said.
In the case of the media, finance and other white-collar businesses, what the pandemic has shown is that many workers can work from home, he said.
“So a reasonable accommodation here would require workers who wish to return to the office to be vaccinated and allow those who do not want to be vaccinated to work from home,” Cevallos said. “But hospital settings are different. You cannot telecommute your job as a nurse in a hospital.
The lawsuit against the Houston Methodist Hospital was filed by Jennifer Bridges, a nurse, and 116 other hospital workers. They argued, among other things, that the vaccines currently available in the United States were experimental and dangerous.
Hughes disagreed, saying the plaintiffs “misrepresented the facts” of the vaccination by claiming they were undergoing forced medical testing because the Covid-19 vaccines had received emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration but not full approval.
“Hospital workers are not participating in a human trial,” Hughes wrote. “Methodist is trying to do its job of saving lives without giving them the Covid-19 virus. It is a choice made to ensure the safety of staff, patients and their families. “
Hughes also called “reprehensible” the trial’s comparison between the vaccine requirement and medical experimentation during the Holocaust.
The judge also said that the plaintiffs were not forced to be vaccinated.
“Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a Covid-19 vaccine, but if she refuses, she will simply have to work elsewhere,” the judge said.
While Bridges et al. have vowed to appeal, Cevallos said, they are unlikely to overturn Hughes’ decision. “The plaintiffs here have made thorny legal arguments,” he said.
Dr Sadiya Khan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said requiring healthcare workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 was obvious.
“I believe healthcare organizations have a responsibility to protect immunocompromised and vulnerable patients,” Khan said. “Similar to the mandates for the influenza vaccine, I agree with the mandatory vaccination against Covid-19 in a health care setting.”
But healthcare workers are not immune to various conspiracy theories and false claims that have cast doubt on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, Khan said.
“We still have a long way to go to understand the reluctance to vaccinate, especially among healthcare workers who have witnessed firsthand the burden of Covid-19,” Khan said. “I’m not surprised by anyone’s concerns about a new vaccine, but I firmly believe that the available data, from trials and based on the 7 million Americans who received at least 1 dose of the vaccine, provide data. solid and reassuring about its safety and efficiency.