Louisiana Supreme Court rules in favor of Ochsner COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The state’s largest health system requires its employees to get the vaccine

By: - January 7, 2022 1:22 pm
Ochsner vaccine

Debbie Ford, Chief Nursing Officer at Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson, was the first Ochsner Health employee to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at 9:07 a.m. on Monday, December 14, 2020. (Photo provided by Ochsner Health)

The Louisiana Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings Friday that uphold Ochsner Health’s employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The rulings come as the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments from states and private sector plaintiffs that oppose President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large employers and most health care employees.

The state’s high court ruled in favor of Ochsner, the state’s largest hospital system, in two lawsuits that challenged Ochsner’s requirement that all employees either take a coronavirus vaccine, apply for an exemption or face termination.

In the Caddo Parish case of Hayes v. University Health Shreveport, the Supreme Court ruled that Ochsner is a private employer and falls under Louisiana’s at-will employment doctrine, which holds that “an employer is at liberty to dismiss an at-will employee and, reciprocally, the employee is at liberty to leave the employment to seek other opportunities.”

“[T]his court finds Employer is entitled to terminate Employees for failure to comply with the vaccine mandate,” the ruling stated.

The court also found no merit to the claim that a doctor-patient relationship existed between Ochsner and its employees.

For those same reasons, the court also dismissed the nearly identical Lafayette Parish lawsuit of Nelson v. Ochsner.

Federal district court rulings in Louisiana and Missouri blocked the mandates from taking effect. U.S. Supreme Court justices are expected to decide this weekend whether to reverse those rulings.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has challenged the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for health care facilities that accept federal Medicaid and Medicare dollars. He has accused the president of violating the U.S. Constitution and other federal laws.

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Wes Muller
Wes Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. He also taught English as an adjunct instructor at Baton Rouge Community College. Much of his journalism has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and coverage of municipal and state government. He has received recognitions including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus and a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his two sons and his wife, who is also a journalist.

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