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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