Ochsner Health disappointed with COVID-19 vaccine decision
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Louisiana’s largest healthcare system has expressed disappointment with an appeals court order blocking its decision to fire or discipline employees in northern Louisiana who refuse his tenure get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“This ruling is inconsistent with established Louisiana law as well as court rulings across the country upholding COVID-19 vaccine warrants,” Ochsner Health President and CEO Warner Thomas said. , in a press release. “Ochsner Health intends to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court and is confident that we will prevail.”
The Shreveport 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday, just a day before Ochsner Health’s Friday deadline for its 32,000 employees across Louisiana and a small part of Mississippi to be fully immunized or laid off .
State District Judge Craig Marcotte had dismissed a lawsuit brought on Oct. 5 by dozens of employees at the Ochsner site in Shreveport. The three-judge appeal panel ordered him to hold a warrant hearing and block the execution until its legality is decided.
In light of the court’s decision, Thomas said, “We are extending our compliance deadline for all Ochsner LSU Health employees at the Shreveport and Monroe facilities until the matter is resolved.”
This includes the postponement of the requirement for all unvaccinated to be tested weekly for COVID-19 from Monday.
All employees will continue to be required to wear masks, Thomas noted.
“Those who are not vaccinated are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated or to request religious or medical dispensation where appropriate,” he said.
While the 2nd Circuit rulings do not affect district courts outside of northern Louisiana, the ruling is a signal to businesses statewide that vaccination warrants are likely illegal, said Jimmy Faircloth, a lawyer for some of the workers who filed the complaint.
He said the fact that a temporary restraining order had even been issued indicated the likelihood that the plaintiffs have a good chance of winning.
However, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers 21 parishes in southwestern and central Louisiana, on Wednesday dismissed a request for a similar order and reinstatement of a lawsuit against Ochsner Lafayette General Health.
“We find no error in the decision of the court of first instance”, wrote the panel of the 3rd circuit.
Faircloth said he had asked the Louisiana Supreme Court to overturn the dismissal of the case by District Judge Thomas Frederick.
The lawsuits argue that Louisiana’s constitution and laws guarantee citizens the right to decide on their medical treatment.
“It is illegal for an employer to threaten to fire an employee for exercising a legal right, or to require an employee to waive the exercise of a legal right as a condition of employment,” says the Shreveport trial.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.