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Understanding Lawsuits about COVID-19 Vaccinations and Accommodations

Understanding Lawsuits about COVID-19 Vaccinations and Accommodations

More employees are challenging employers' COVID-19 vaccination mandates, but some legal experts say the lawsuits are not valid. We have gathered articles on the lawsuits from SHRM Online and other trusted outlets.

“Judge Dismisses Hospital Workers' Lawsuit over Mandatory Vaccinations”

“A federal judge in Texas upheld a hospital system's mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy by dismissing a lawsuit that claimed vaccines against the coronavirus are experimental. The lawsuit was filed against Houston Methodist by 117 unvaccinated employees who were told to get vaccinated or lose their jobs. They argued that the hospital's requirement violated public policy, since the COVID-19 vaccines were distributed under the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) emergency use authorization rather than the FDA's usual processes. Judge Lynn Hughes of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas said, "This claim is false, and it is also irrelevant." The lead plaintiff "is refusing to accept inoculation that, in the hospital's judgment, will make it safer for their workers and the patients in Methodist's care."

The plaintiffs are appealing the decision. The lead plaintiff said, "This will be taken all the way to the Supreme Court. This is far from over. This is literally only the beginning."

(SHRM Online) and (KHOU-11)

More Lawsuits Filed

Lawsuits also have been filed against a North Carolina sheriff, a New Mexico detention center and a Los Angeles school district, to name a few. The lawsuits similarly argue that the vaccines are experimental because they only have emergency use authorization and therefore can't be mandated. Nearly one-third of unvaccinated adults are waiting for full FDA approval of a vaccine before getting vaccinated.

Allison Hoffman, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said the complaints "are not very strong legal arguments." She added that employers can legally require workers to get the shots because the FDA's emergency use authorization means the shot is safe enough for the public.

(ABC News)

Mandatory Vaccinations Are on the Rise

A survey by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that 4.4 percent of U.S. employers are currently requiring their employees to get the vaccine—up from 2.5 percent as of April 18. The percentage is higher in Puerto Rico, where 19 percent of employers require employee vaccinations.

Increase in Mandatory Vaccinations Expected

More employers may mandate vaccinations once they get full FDA approval, according to Christina Janice, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio. "That increase is likely to occur in first-responder, front-line workplaces, such as health care, emergency services and schools," she said. (Bloomberg)

Reasonable Accommodations

Businesses generally may require workers who enter a physical worksite to receive a COVID-19 vaccination without running afoul of the federal workplace anti-discrimination laws that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces, including the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Genetic Information Nondisclosure Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, employers must consider reasonable accommodations for workers who refuse a vaccine for religious or disability-related reasons, unless such accommodations pose an undue hardship to the employer's operations.

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