153 Houston Hospital Workers Were Fired or Quit After Refusing to Get the COVID Vaccine
A federal judge threw out a lawsuit from 117 employees who fought against the Houston Methodist Hospital’s rule to get vaccinated by June 7
More than 150 hospital workers in the Houston Methodist Hospital system were fired or quit by the end of their two-week suspension after refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this month, 178 hospital workers were suspended without pay for failing to comply with the hospital's requirement that all employees get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The requirement was announced in April, and workers had until June 7 to comply.
After the two-week suspension period, 153 employees were either terminated or stepped away Tuesday, a Houston Methodist Hospital system spokesperson told NPR. A spokesperson for the hospital system did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
More than 100 employees filed a lawsuit over the requirement, arguing that it was unlawful for the hospital to require employees to be inoculated or fired, according to documents obtained by the New York Times.
Houston U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes threw out the lawsuit earlier this month, though the plaintiffs have appealed the dismissal, NPR reported.
"Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them the COVID-19 virus," Hughes wrote in her June 12 ruling. "It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer."
Hughes also pointed out that the employees "can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine" — but if they refuse, they will "simply need to work somewhere else."
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
The 178 employees who were suspended represent less than one percent of the hospital's total 25,000 employees, PEOPLE previously reported. While some of the group did get vaccinated during their suspension, the rest have now been fired.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, current federal guidelines "do not prevent an employer from requiring all employees physically entering the workplace to be vaccinated for COVID-19, so long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the [Americans With Disabilities Act] and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other EEO considerations."
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.