The judge efficiently, but directly, rejected the numerous arguments put forth by plaintiffs for why their claims should survive dismissal.
In support of their argument, the plaintiffs argued that the currently available vaccines are “experimental and dangerous.” In rejecting this argument, the court referenced recent guidance issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which states that employers lawfully may require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 subject to reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs that preclude vaccination.
The plaintiffs further argued that the injection requirement was against public policy. However, the court concluded the opposite, explaining that requiring vaccines is consistent with public policy because the hospital, in requiring employees to be vaccinated, is trying to “do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus” because requiring employees to be vaccinated will keep staff, patients and their families safer. The court further criticized the plaintiff’s comparison of the hospital’s vaccine policy to “medical experimentation in concentration camps” and called this argument “reprehensible.”
The key takeaway from the opinion is this: according to the opinion, businesses, especially those in the healthcare industry, who require their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, will not violate federal law or public policies. Further, as noted by the federal judge in this case, implementing mandatory vaccine policies does not equate to coercion because employees can simply refuse a vaccine and find somewhere else to work.
Caveat: The foregoing decision is only one court’s view – albeit from a federal court – of the legality of employer-mandated vaccination requirements. Thus, it is not binding on any other court. Also, the opinion may not stand, as the plaintiffs have expressed a plan to appeal. Further, the court’s opinion is quite terse, so it lacks substantial in-depth analysis of the arguments. That said, what the court does discuss appears to accurately reflect recent guidance on the safety of the vaccine. Accordingly, it would not be surprising if many other courts follow suit.
The Coronavirus Task Force at Klehr Harrison stands ready to assist you in your business and legal needs. We will continue to provide additional information and guidance as the COVID-19 situation develops.