COVID-19 has presented no shortage of legal questions for employers, from shutdowns and layoffs to when and how to reopen. And with COVID-19 vaccines now broadly available in the United States, some companies (especially those in high-risk environments like hospitals and nursing homes) face a new question: whether they can require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. On June 12, 2021, Judge Lynn Hughes in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas found that such a requirement was legally permissible in Jennifer Bridges v. Houston Methodist Hospital (Case No. 4:21-cv-01774).
In April 2021, Houston Methodist Hospital announced a policy requiring its employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and stated that it would terminate the employment of employees who did not timely receive a COVID-19 vaccine (subject to reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or sincerely held religious beliefs). Jennifer Bridges and 116 other employees sued to block this requirement of continued employment with Houston Methodist, arguing that it (1) constituted wrongful termination and (2) violated federal law. Continue Reading