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April 13, 2023
A federal judge in on Friday said St. Elizabeth Healthcare can require its more than 10,000 employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
This is the latest ruling to uphold U.S. private employers’ right to issue vaccine mandates, and comes after President Biden signed an executive order requiring vaccinations or once-a-week testing for companies with more than 100 employees. In a 20-page decision, U.S. District Judge David Bunning said he would abide by a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which upheld a Massachusetts smallpox vaccination law.
“Actual liberty for all of us cannot exist where individual liberties override potential injury done to others,” Bunning said, noting that the hospital group’s vaccine mandate is “substantially less restrictive” than the one in the 1905 case.
St. Elizabeth Healthcare employees failed to show that the hospital operator’s vaccine requirement violates individual liberties, U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning wrote in the decision. Because the operator retains the right to set terms for employment, the mandate holds, Bunning said.
Citing a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a Massachusetts smallpox vaccination mandate, Bunning noted that “[a]ctual liberty for all of us cannot exist where individual liberties override potential injury done to others.” Though he acknowledged workers’ concerns about the vaccine, “suspicions cannot override the law.”
“If an employee believes his or her individual liberties are more important than legally permissible conditions on his or her employment, that employee can and should choose to exercise another individual liberty, no less significant — the right to seek other employment,” Bunning wrote.
Mark Guilfoyle, the attorney representing St. Elizabeth, said in an interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer that the decision “could not be more strongly in our favor.” He celebrated the decision, saying, “This is great news for St. Elizabeth patients, for St. Elizabeth associates and for our whole community. This mandate is going to help reduce community spread, and it’s going to help keep people out of the hospital, which is already stressed.”
A spokesperson for the firm representing the employees called the decision a “setback” and “wrong” in a video posted Friday. “We lost here, which we thought was our strongest chance at winning, so that has to be factored in on what we do from here.”
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: CINCINNATI.COM