(CNN) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Houston Methodist Hospital by employees who opposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate as a condition of employment.
On Saturday, US District Court Judge Lynn Hughes ruled against Jennifer Bridges and 116 of her fellow Houston Methodist coworkers who sued to block the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. Houston Methodist Hospital moved to dismiss the case.
Bridges and her co-workers claimed the COVID-19 vaccines used in the US were “experimental and dangerous,” and that it would be “wrongful” to be terminated for refusing the get vaccinated.
The privately run Houston Methodist Hospital countered, saying not only were Bridges’ claims untrue, but that under Texas law, workers are protected from termination only if they refuse to commit a criminal act that carries criminal penalties.
Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is not an illegal act, and it carries no criminal penalties.
The judge agreed with Houston Methodist Hospital. Hughes admonished Bridges’ analogy that her threat of termination in this case was like “forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust.”
Judge Hughes called that claim “reprehensible” and said Bridges was not being coerced.
“Methodist is trying to do their business of saving lives without giving them … COVID-19,” Hughes wrote in the dismissal of the lawsuit.
“It is a choice made to keep staff, patients, and their families safer. Bridges can freely choose to accept or refuse a COVID-19 vaccine; however if she refuses she will simply need to work somewhere else.”
Jared Woodfill, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said an appeal is expected.
“Employment should not be conditioned upon whether you will agree to serve as a human guinea pig,” Woodfill said in a statement obtained by CNN affiliate KPRC.
“What is shocking is that many of my clients were on the front line treating COVID-positive patients at Texas Methodist Hospital during the height of the pandemic. As a result, many of them contracted COVID-19. As a thank you for their service and sacrifice, Methodist Hospital awards them a pink slip and sentences them to bankruptcy.”
The hospital said “plaintiffs falsely claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines are not safe.”
“With more than 300 million doses administered in the United States alone, the vaccines have proven to be extremely safe,” Houston Methodist said.
“The number of both positive cases and hospitalizations continue to drop around the country, proving that the vaccines are working in keeping our community protected.”
Bridges and the 116 other plaintiffs represent less than 0.5% of Houston Methodist employees — 24,947 of whom have already been vaccinated, Houston Methodist said.
The judge also recently denied the plaintiffs’ request for a temporary restraining order to block Houston Methodist from suspending employees who refused to get vaccinated.
“The public’s interest in having a hospital capable of caring for patients during a pandemic far outweighs protecting the vaccination preferences of 116 employees,” the judge wrote.
“The plaintiffs are not just jeopardizing their own health; they are jeopardizing the health of doctors, nurses, support staff, patients and their families.”
In December, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said companies can legally mandate their employees reentering the workplace and new hires be vaccinated against COVID-19. The two exceptions companies must allow for are religious reasons and disability.