Houston Hospital Workers Vow Appeal After Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging Vaccination Requirement

The lawyer for 117 Houston Methodist Hospital employees who sued the hospital for its mandatory vaccination policy has vowed to file an appeal after a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit on Saturday.

More than 170 employees have refused to get the mandatory vaccination by the hospital's deadline on June 7, and were suspended for the next 14 days without pay. If the employees do not comply with the vaccination mandate, they will be fired.

Abiout 117 employees challenged the mandate, and sued the hospital. U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes threw out the case on Saturday, citing it is within the hospital's right to require its staff to receive vaccines.

The employees attempted to file for wrongful termination, but Texas law only protects employees "for refusing to commit an act carrying criminal penalties to the worker."

"Receiving a COVID-19 vaccination is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties. [The employees are] refusing to accept inoculation that, in the hospital's judgement, will make it safer for their workers and the patients in Methodist's care," Hughes said in the dismissal, KPRC reported.

Jared Woodfill, a lawyer for the Houston Methodist employees, released a statement saying the employees would appeal to the United States Court of Appeals, and would be seeking a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court in a similar case.

"What is shocking is that many of my clients were on the front line treating Covid positive patients at Texas Methodist Hospital during the height of the pandemic. As a result, many of them contracted COVID-19. As a thank you for their service and sacrifice, Methodist Hospital awards them a pink slip and sentences them to bankruptcy," Woodfill said in the statement.

Houston Methodist Hospital
HOUSTON, TEXAS - JUNE 09: Medical workers and pedestrians cross an intersection outside of the Houston Methodist Hospital on June 09, 2021 in Houston, Texas. A lawyer for 117 Houston Methodist Hospital employees who sued the hospital for its mandatory vaccination policy has vowed to file an appeal after a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit on Saturday. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

During the case, Woodfill and the plaintiffs had argued the vaccinations were neither safe nor fully approved, comparing the administration of the vaccines to employees as acting as "human guinea pigs."

"This is just one battle in a larger war to protect the rights of employees to be free from being forced to participate in a vaccine trial as a condition for employment. Employment should not be conditioned upon whether you will agree to serve as a human guinea pig," Woodfill said.

The claim was dismissed by Hughes, saying the hospital had not been approved to test COVID-19 vaccines on its employees in a clinical trial. The claim that the vaccines were unsafe was similarly dismissed.

Houston Methodist wrote in a statement: "With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States alone, the vaccines have proven to be extremely safe. The number of both positive cases and hospitalizations continues to drop around the country, proving that the vaccines are working in keeping our community protected."

The dismissal ended in a ruling that "the plaintiffs will take nothing from Houston Methodist Hospital and Houston Methodist The Woodlands Hospital," although Woodfill still plans to continue appealing the case, saying all the employees "continue to be committed to fighting this unjust policy."

"This legal battle has only just begun," Woodfill said. "Ultimately, I believe Methodist Hospital will be held accountable for its conduct. Sometimes the wheels of justice move slower than we like."

Newsweek reached out to Houston Methodist Hospital for comment.