ATLANTA — There is now new pressure on workers to get the COVID-19 vaccines—or else look for work elsewhere.
On Saturday, a federal court ruling upheld the right of private employers to require all of their employees to get the COVID-19 shots, just as employers have already been permitted to order employees to get flu shots and other vaccines.
The ruling in Texas is setting precedent nationwide, including in Georgia where two-thirds of the people are not fully vaccinated, and may not want the shots, ever.
As it is under the ruling, workers have no rights of refusal, at all, other than to prove they have a religious or medical exemption; or they can simply quit.
The case arose from workers at Houston Methodist Hospital after 178 employees refused their boss’s order to get the COVID-19 shots, insisting the vaccines are still not proven to be safe.
“My job, my health, it’s not worth it,” one of the protesting employees said at a demonstration with colleagues outside the hospital last week.
The hospital suspended them without pay. They sued in federal court, and on Saturday they lost.
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“We all wear proper PPE, anyway,” Jennifer Bridges, the lead plaintiff said. "So, vaccinated or not, we’re not going to spread anything.”
The ruling confirms an earlier EEOC decision that all private employers can legally order their employees to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19, unless the worker has a religious or medical exemption.
“The ruling is going to have a lasting impact on other states, to where, if there are other challenges to this requirement, a lot of other courts and cases are going to point back just to this specific case in Houston,” Jared Pope, founder of Work Shield said. “Whether you’re a restaurant, retail, hospitality, professional services, it applies to every, single employer."
Pope also mentioned that all employers probably will not want to require workers to get the vaccines.
That's because employers are having such a hard time hiring right now, and in Georgia, two-thirds of the people, so far, are not fully vaccinated, just like the unvaccinated hospital workers in Houston.
“It’s hard to find employees to come back to work." Pope said. "And I think this is where employers are going to have to be a little adaptive to this environment that we’re put in, today. But also make sure those employees, you know, they have a voice that’s heard."
Pope said many employers might not want to chase away good—but unvaccinated--workers.
The hospital workers in Houston plan to appeal the ruling.