Texas judge's ruling adds to 'growing weight' against workers fighting COVID-19 vaccine mandates
A federal judge's dismissal on Saturday of a case brought by Texas hospital workers challenging a COVID-19 vaccination requirement could influence similar cases across the U.S., legal experts say.
On Saturday, Texas federal judge Lynn Hughes became the first to weigh in on a line of cases across the country challenging prevailing legal thought that, so long as private employers comply with medical and religious exceptions, they can fire employees who refuse COVID-19 vaccination.
The district judge dismissed the case, finding that under Texas law and federal law the defendant, Houston Methodist Hospital, lawfully suspended 178 employees who refused vaccines.
While the case directly impacts Montgomery County workers who sued and other workers within the jurisdiction, legal experts say it’s likely to impart at least some influence on pending cases elsewhere.
“Certainly a precedent in one state is not binding on courts in other jurisdictions, but this is a federal court, and as a general rule, a federal court’s decision has a higher percent value than say a decision by a Texas state judge,” George Washington University Law School public interest law professor John Banzhaf told Yahoo Finance. “This new decision simply adds to the growing weight.”
The dismissal confirms that private employers can still legally mandate the vaccine even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only authorized it for emergency use without giving it full approval yet, Brett Coburn, attorney with Alston & Bird, told Yahoo Finance. Still, Coburn said, no one should expect the decision to deter the Montgomery County workers, who already said they're appealing, or other workers who want to sue over vaccination requirements.
"I don’t think it’s going to dramatically change where we are," Coburn said.