Baylor Scott & White Health says their entire workforce must be vaccinated against COVID-19 within the next two months.
BSW Health, a statewide healthcare provider with 51 hospitals across the state and nearly 50,000 employees, said in a statement released Wednesday they were requiring all "employees, providers, volunteers, vendors, students, and contract staff" to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 1.
The company said due to the high transmissibility of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus and the fact that the overwhelming majority of those with severe illness are among the unvaccinated makes now the ideal time to make sure everyone working for them is protected.
BSW Health's complete statement is below:
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With rapidly rising COVID-19 case counts due to the highly contagious Delta variant and the start of the flu season fast approaching, we believe now is the right time to take the next step in achieving a fully vaccinated workforce. By Oct. 1, 2021, all Baylor Scott & White Health employees, providers, volunteers, vendors, students, and contract staff must receive both doses of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, unless granted an exemption. The Delta variant is the most contagious and dangerous strain we have seen to date, leading to exponentially increasing rates of severe illness and hospitalization. The overwhelming majority of these cases are among the unvaccinated. We are committed to making the communities we serve healthier. Whether you are a patient, family member, or employee, you can be assured that we have taken every measure to protect you.
Mike Maslanka, an associate professor of law at UNT Dallas College of Law, said religious and medical reasons are exemptions employers must consider under the law if they are requiring vaccinations. A spokesperson for BWS Health confirmed Wednesday religious and medical reasons are examples of why a worker may be exempt from policy.
"An employee can make taking a vaccine a condition of employment. You’re an at-will employee. If an employer wants you to come in at 9 a.m. instead of 8 a.m., they can tell you to do that. It’s a condition of your employment. Taking a vaccination is no different," Maslanka said. "I think with the severity of this delta variant or other variants that are coming out, I think more and more private employers are going to require vaccinations."
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Earlier this summer, more than 150 employees of the Houston Methodist hospital system who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine were fired or resigned after a judge dismissed an employee lawsuit over their vaccine requirement.
In a scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes deemed lead plaintiff Jennifer Bridges' contention that the vaccines are "experimental and dangerous" are false and she dismissed the suit adding that if the employees didn't like the requirement, they could go work elsewhere.
"Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however, if she refuses, she will simply need to work somewhere else. If a worker refuses an assignment, changed office, earlier start time, or other directive, he may be properly fired. Every employment includes limits on the worker's behavior in exchange for remuneration. That is all part of the bargain," Hughes concluded.
Houston Methodist required employees to complete their immunization by June 7. The next day, 178 employees were suspended for two weeks without pay for not complying.
BSW Health has not said what might happen to employees who do not meet the Oct. 1 deadline.