A Louisiana appellate court ruled last week that the most extensive healthcare system in the state must stop forcing its employees to take a COVID-19 vaccination while the case about its legality is pending.
Three judges of the Louisiana Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary restraining order stopping Ochsner Health System from disciplining or terminating employees who fail to comply with the company’s mandate. Ochsner employs around 32,000 workers.
The order was handed down just a day before Ochsner’s mandate was to become effective. The lawsuit was filed by 39 employees who would have been subject to formal discipline under the mandate.
The case was initially filed in a Parish District Court in Shreveport and alleged that the vaccine rules violate the Louisiana Constitution and various state statutes that guarantee state residents the right to make their own medical decisions. The trial court dismissed the complaint, leading to the appeal in the case.
Reporting indicates that Oschner is “disappointed” in the appeals court ruling. CEO Warner Thomas issued a statement saying that the order is “inconsistent with established Louisiana law” as well as rulings on similar cases around the country. Warner said that the system will postpone its mandate deadline in compliance with the order but said Oschner “intends to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court and is confident we will prevail.”
Tulane Law School professor Joel Friedman told reporters that the appeal court’s order “just postpones the inevitable.” The labor law specialist believes that the mandate does not violate any right to privacy because of the “compelling interest” to order the shots.
The challenged mandate put in place by Oschner went beyond just its actual employees. The company also announced a planned disciplinary rule that would impose a “spousal COVID vaccine fee” set to begin in 2022. That rule would apply to employees who have spouses covered by the employee’s benefit plan and receive the vaccination. Failure to comply would result in increased insurance rates. The fee is set to be $100 and deducted from the paychecks of noncompliant employees every pay period.
Public records do not reveal whether a further hearing on the lawsuit has yet been scheduled.