Letters sent to two Lafayette hospitals on Wednesday are requesting the withdrawal of COVID vaccine mandates for staff and employees.
Attorney Jimmy Faircloth Jr. of Faircloth Melton Sobel & Bash, LLC, confirmed that the letters were sent from his law office to Ochsner Lafayette General and Our Lady of Lourdes on September 1 on behalf of his clients.
Scroll to the end of the article to see both letters.
The clients, according to the firm, "represent a large group of Acadiana healthcare workers who object to the vaccine mandate for staff and employees." Faircloth says his clients are all either employees or physicians of the two hospitals.
And their objection, they say, is "based on the right of each individual to make an informed healthcare decision under Louisiana law."
While the clients indicate that they fully understand the seriousness of COVID-19, in the letters they claim that their individual rights should come before their jobs as healthcare workers.
"Our clients fully understand the seriousness of the virus and have worked tirelessly to provide care and comfort for the inflicted and affected," the letters state. "But at same time, our clients respect the boundary between individual autonomy and the delivery of healthcare, and that the latter must ultimately yield to the former, as Louisiana law recognizes."
The letters further state that the clients have a constitutional right to refuse medical treatment and that both Ochsner and Lourdes cannot violate that right. They also claim that both hospitals have no authority under Louisiana law to impose their vaccine mandate as a condition of employment.
The letters state that Ochsner Lafayette General and Our Lady of Lourdes have until September 17, 2021, to recall their mandates.
If not withdrawn, the law firm says that their clients will seek an injunction and "move to recover all damages caused by this misguided venture."
The letters, according to the law firm, provide notice of their clients’ objections and refusal to participate in the vaccine mandate. The identity of those clients, they say, will be revealed if the filing of a petition becomes necessary.
Ochsner Lafayette General responds:
“Throughout the past 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare workers have been on the front lines. During this time, they protected our patients and each other, but many of them still got infected with COVID-19 because of community spread; as such, many were unable to work and care for our patients suffering from the same deadly virus during our highest peak. We now have a vaccine that is not only safe and effective, but also has been approved by the FDA. Our healthcare workers protect our families and our communities, and we appreciate their many sacrifices. While we are empathetic to those who do not agree with a vaccine mandate, we will not change our stance. We stand firm that vaccines are the way we end this pandemic.” - Patrick Gandy, CEO, Ochsner Lafayette General
Can employers legally require their staff to get vaccinated?
Greg Guidry, a management labor and employment attorney, told KATC that companies covered by Title VII are allowed to mandate vaccination for their workers.
But there are exceptions.
"If an employee raises a sincerely held religious belief, as the reason for not getting vaccinated, or raises a medical or disability issue or is pregnant and resists it, employers are required to go through what we call the interactive process," Guidry said.
That interactive process, according to Guidry, is when the employee and company talk about a potential route to accommodation.
See both letters below:
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