A Houston Methodist hospital group in Texas said 153 employees have left their jobs or been fired for failing to follow its Covid-19 vaccine mandate for employees.
Hospital group spokeswoman Patti Muck on Wednesday disclosed the number of staff who either resigned or were terminated but she declined to specify the exact number of employees in each category.
The terminations were carried out Tuesday after the lapsing of a June 22 suspension period for employees who had not been vaccinated by a June 7 deadline, Muck said. Those who were still not vaccinated and out of compliance with company policy were then fired.
Houston Methodist’s vaccine mandate survived a legal challenge earlier this month when a Texas federal judge threw out a lawsuit that compared the hospital’s requirement to forced medical experiments in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. The workers who challenged the mandate have appealed the judge’s ruling.
The hospital system, which employs 26,000 workers, rolled out its mandate after offering $500 cash bonus incentives to encourage vaccine-apprehensive employees to receive inoculations against Covid-19. Several other companies, including Dollar General Corp. and meat processor JBS USA, have announced similar incentive programs.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidance in May to clarify that employers who administer the vaccines themselves may offer incentives, so long as the incentive isn’t “so substantial as to be coercive.” What incentive constitutes a value substantial enough to convince a worker to share information that otherwise wouldn’t be shared remains unknown.
Houston Methodist CEO Marc Boom said in February that the hospital group had been signaling to employees since last summer that inoculation against the coronavirus “will become mandatory, just as with the flu.”
Nearly all of the hospital’s staff have been vaccinated against Covid-19, with 285 granted a medical or religious exemption and another 332 employees allowed to defer their shots due to pregnancy, according to Muck.
—With assistance from Robert Iafolla and Paige Smith