Three dozen workers at Notre-Dame de Lourdes medical center in Lafayette saw their trial against the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine warrant for employees sacked by a local judge on Thursday.
Fifteenth Judicial District Court judge Valerie Gotch Garrett dismissed the lawsuit after hearing arguments at Lafayette, saying employees had yet to prove that the hospital’s process for exempting employees from warrant was sufficient narrow to violate their right to privacy.
“For me, it is not yet a question of fundamental rights or employment at will,” Gotch Garret said Thursday.
âOnce the policy has been tested, the court can then determine whether or not there has been irreparable harm,â she added.
The employees asked the court for a temporary injunction, which would have prevented the Lourdes warrants from coming into effect on October 31.
But Gotch Garrett dismissed their complaint entirely on Thursday, telling them to consider taking their case to court once the hospital deadline passed.
Gotch Garrett’s decision follows a similar ruling by 15th JDC judge Thomas Frederick last week, who sided with Ochsner Lafayette General in a lawsuit by about four dozen employees against the vaccine warrant. COVID-19 from this health facility for employees.
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But Frederick’s rationale differed from Gotch Garrett’s decision, as he found that Ochsner’s vaccine mandate did not violate employees’ right to privacy since the hospital is not bound by constitutional rights to privacy to the same extent as government agencies.
Gotch Garrett did not rule on the matter on Thursday and instead dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the employees had not yet been affected by the warrant.
Alexandria attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who led a previous lawsuit by bar owners against Governor John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 restrictions, represented hospital workers in both lawsuits.
Faircloth argued last week and again on Thursday that employee vaccination warrants violate employees’ right to privacy, insisting that the Louisiana Constitution protects all workers from employer-mandated medical treatment .
He called Garrett’s decision on Thursday a “good decision” because Gotch Garrett did not dismiss his argument that the tenure violates employees’ right to privacy.
âI appreciate this decision,â Faircloth said.
“We are one step closer to final victory,” he added.
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Lourdes lawyer Thomas Temple argued that employees were free to quit their jobs with the healthcare system if they did not want to comply with the vaccination mandate.
Temple said Lourdes has the right to require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under state labor laws, which allow employers to fire workers for almost any specific reason.
âAt the heart of the (employee) case is an at will attack on Louisiana jobs,â Temple argued.
âAt the end of the day, (employees) have the choice to get vaccinated or to refuse and be fired,â he added. “But it’s their choice.”
Since announcing its impending COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees, the Lafayette campus in Lourdes has been subjected to protests against the mandate, to which the health system has responded by reaffirming its commitment to the vaccine requirement.
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âIt is with the highest consideration for the safety of our team members and patients that we have a mandate for vaccination. The mandate will be maintained. We will not falter and we will continue to lead by example, âChief Medical Officer Dr Henry Kauffman said in response to a protest on August 25.
Faircloth said after Thursday’s ruling that he does not plan to appeal Gotch Garrett’s ruling, but will continue his appeal of Frederick’s Sept. 23 ruling and seeks a temporary suspension of the deadline for the Ochsner tenure to the Louisiana Supreme Court while the case is pending.
An earlier version of this report incorrectly listed Jimmy Faircloth’s city of residence. We regret the error.