Houston Hospital Workers Walk Out Over Covid Vaccine Mandate


Nearly 200 staff members at a Houston-area hospital were suspended for not following a policy that requires employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Their suspensions followed a protest by dozens of workers on Monday night against the policy.

The hospital, Houston Methodist, had told employees that they had to be vaccinated by Monday or face suspension. Last month, 117 Houston Methodist employees filed a lawsuit against their employer over the vaccine policy.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends health care workers get a flu shot, and some hospital systems require it, few companies have required Covid-19 shots, despite federal government guidance that says employers can mandate vaccines for on-site workers.

Executives, lawyers and consultants who advise companies say that many of them remain hesitant because of a long list of legal considerations the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says must be followed before mandating vaccinations. Some companies say they are wary of setting mandates until the vaccines have received full approval by the Food and Drug Administration, which so far has granted emergency use authorization.

The workers’ lawsuit accuses the hospital of “forcing its employees to be human ‘guinea pigs’ as a condition for continued employment.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Dr. Marc Boom, president and chief executive of Houston Methodist, said 178 employees who did not meet the vaccination deadline on Monday,

“I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first,” Dr. Boom said.

Of the suspended employees, about 27 had received at least one dose, and Dr. Boom said he hoped they will get their second dose soon to meet the vaccine requirement.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas signed a law prohibiting businesses or government entities in the state from requiring vaccine passports, or digital proof of vaccination, joining states such as Florida and Arkansas. It’s unclear how or if the new law will affect employer mandates like Houston Methodist’s.

In some industries, including aviation, employers are taking a middle-ground approach. Delta Air Lines, which is distributing vaccines out of its flight museum in Atlanta, said in May that it would strongly encourage current employees to get vaccinated and require it for new hires.

United Airlines, after considering a blanket mandate, said last week that it would require anyone hired in the United States after June 15 to provide proof of vaccination no later than a week after starting. Exceptions may be made for those who have medical or religious reasons for not getting vaccinated, the company added.



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