Experts say employers can require vaccinations after ruling in Houston Methodist case

A failed lawsuit over vaccination requirements for employees could have bigger implications for other employers.

A judge tossed out a lawsuit against Houston Methodist Hospital over its vaccine requirement for employees, saying the hospital has a right to require employees be vaccinated.

The plaintiffs in this case say they plan to appeal - but in the meantime - both private and public employers can continue to require vaccinations.

"This is a major legal decision, and it gives employers the green light to require vaccination, require masks, and implement other health and safety measures," said Rogge Dunn, business & employment attorney.

A judge’s decision to toss out the lawsuit could result in more employers deciding to require the COVID-19 vaccine for employees.

In ruling against the employees who sued, the judge said: "[Jennifer] Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else. If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired."

Dunn says this applies to private and public employers.

"What does this mean for employers? It means that employers can require vaccinations. It means they have the green light to impose important safety measures they think are necessary to protect their employers as well as their customers."

But there could be more legal challenges ahead when it comes to Governor Abbott’s ban on vaccine passports and employers requiring proof of vaccination.

"So let’s say an employer says I want you to get a vaccine and I’m ordering you to have proof of that vaccine, well how are they going to enforce that if they can’t ask for verification? That’s going to be the next lawsuit you might see," Dunn said.

Attorneys in this area of law say we’re likely to see more legal challenges as the details get sorted out.

"That would produce a clash between what the employer wanted and what the law said you couldn’t do… and that would be a more complex issue to have to sort through," said David Coale, constitutional law attorney.

It also might depend on the type of business.

"When a hospital says we want to vaccinate our employees who help us administer healthcare, that’s a pretty powerful argument, and the bodies of law she was going on don’t really bear on that situation, but they might have more bite with a conventional employer that’s not dealing directly with healthcare," Coale said.

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