Houston Methodist Employees Sue Hospital To Stay Unvaccinated And Keep Their Jobs

Most Houston Methodist employees have complied with the mandatory vaccine policy, but others argue they shouldn't have to.
Most Houston Methodist employees have complied with the mandatory vaccine policy, but others argue they shouldn't have to. Screenshot
Houston Methodist Nurse Jennifer Bridges told the Houston Press in April she wasn’t willing to take a COVID-19 vaccine to keep her job. Now, Bridges and dozens of her coworkers are fighting back against the hospital chain’s vaccine requirement in court.

On Friday, 117 Houston Methodist employees sued the hospital in Montgomery County district court for forcing them to get vaccinated by June 7 in order to keep their jobs.

“Of course, there will be so much more to come, but at least we’ve got our grounds and we’re going to start fighting,” Bridges said Friday.

The employees are being represented by local attorney and conservative activist Jared Woodfill. This is far from Woodfill’s first coronavirus-related lawsuit, as he’s sued numerous local and state officials over allegedly freedom-infringing mask mandates and other pandemic-minded regulations.

In the lawsuit, Woodfill wrote that his clients “are being forced to serve as human ‘guinea pigs’” to increase Houston Methodist’s profits.

While many employment law experts have argued that employers are allowed to mandate vaccinations as long as they make exceptions for certain medical conditions and sincerely-held religious beliefs, Woodfill alleged that forcing workers to take what he called “an experimental vaccine” is illegal.

Specifically, he claimed in the lawsuit the vaccine mandate violates the Nuremberg Code of 1947 — the post-World War II medical ethics guidelines written to prevent future Nazi-like medical experiments — because the vaccines have only been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Even though the three available vaccines haven’t been fully-approved by the FDA yet, at this point millions of people around the world have received them without facing any significant adverse effects or complications.

Dr. Marc Boom, president and CEO of Houston Methodist, said in a statement Friday that "99 percent of Houston Methodist's 26,000 employees have met the requirements for the vaccine mandate."

"We are extremely proud of our employees for doing the right thing and protecting our patients from this deadly virus," he continued. "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," said Boom. "It is legal for health care institutions to mandate vaccines," he explained, "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," he said.

Bridges told the Press she hopes the Montgomery County district court could block Houston Methodist from firing its vaccine-averse employees on June 7 even if the case still hasn’t been settled by then.

“We’re going to be talking to the judge, of course, to see if we can get an injunction and a temporary possible restraining order on it,” Bridges said. "That’ll be in our court hearing next week, so hopefully if he grants it to us, we might have a chance to get this frozen, or at least postponed.”

Bridges, who has had COVID-19 herself and recovered, was initially pushing back against her employer’s vaccine requirement because she thought the vaccines had been developed too quickly for her comfort. She said in April she would definitely take any vaccine shot that had been fully-approved by the FDA’s normal non-emergency process.

Now, after weeks of rallying public support for her cause with the help of noted anti-vaccine groups like Texans for Vaccine Choice and Freedom Matters, Bridges said not even full FDA approval could convince her to get vaccinated.

“I will never take that vaccine,” she said. “Ever, ever, ever.”

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Schaefer Edwards is a staff writer at the Houston Press who covers local and regional news. A lifelong Texan and adopted Houstonian, he loves NBA basketball and devouring Tex-Mex while his cat watches in envy.
Contact: Schaefer Edwards