One doctor is challenging Doylestown Health's vaccine mandate. Here's how courts have ruled in similar cases

·3 min read

A prominent heart surgeon is raising money to challenge Doylestown Health over its vaccine requirement, but many times the courts have ruled in favor such policies.

Dr. Joseph Auteri, of Buckingham, was the chief cardiac surgeon at Doylestown Health and served as medical director of Doylestown Health's Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care. In a GoFundMe post, Auteri claims he was laid off after Doylestown Health denied his request for both a medical and religious exemption to the vaccine.

Doylestown Health was one of many health care organizations and employers to require employees to get the COVID vaccine. Some mandates have faced legal challenges — with mixed results.

Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of vaccine requirements. Courts have struck down challenges to employer mandates across the U.S.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals currently is deliberating on a handful of challenges to President Joe Biden's employer vaccine mandate. The mandate had been on hold until late last week, when the court agreed to reinstate it.

Regardless of the outcome, employers generally have large leeway in establishing workplace policy, said one labor law attorney.

"Most employment is at-will,” said attorney Benjamin Noren, who specializes in labor and employment and commercial litigation matters at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP in New York.

“You do not have a right to a job,” Noren said. “You decision not to follow a company policy is largely on you.”

More: Ex-chief of cardiac surgery at Doylestown Health mounts campaign to get his job back after refusing COVID vaccine

More: Bucks County families get on board with COVID-19 pediatric vaccine

History of vaccine mandates

Way back in 1904, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-1 that the state of Massachusetts could require smallpox vaccines. Justice Marshall Harlan wrote the opinion of the court:

“We are unwilling to hold it to be an element in the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States that one person, or a minority of persons, residing in any community and enjoying the benefits of its local government, should have the power thus to dominate the majority when supported in their action by the authority of the state.”

Employers should make reasonable accommodations for workers, but employees do not have a constitutional right to a job, the courts have ruled.

In 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that terminating a worker from a job was “not tantamount to a deprivation of liberty.” In that case, a teacher had publicly criticized his employer. When the teacher’s contract expired, the school chose not to renew his contract.

In 2015, a North Carolina state court ruled that a nursing home could terminate an employee who refused to get a flu shot. The worker was a Seventh-day Adventist. The nursing home asked her to obtain a medical note from her doctor, and the employee refused before she was terminated.

More recently, federal courts have knocked down challenges to COVID shots.

Eighteen federal workers and two U.S. Marines sued President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin over vaccines. On Nov. 8, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled against a preliminary injunction to stop the vaccine mandate, records show.

In Chicago, a group of healthcare workers sought a preliminary injunction to stop a vaccine mandate at NorthShore University HealthSystem, according to the docket. That request was denied on Nov. 30 in U.S. District Court.

On Dec. 3, U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs denied a similar request from workers at a Georgia facility that processes nuclear materials. Again, the courts ruled that the company did not have to continue to employ someone who refused to get vaccine.

As of Monday, Auteri had raised $43,481 in his GoFundMe campaign. Auteri seeks $150,000 to help cover his legal expenses.

Contact reporter James McGinnis at jmcginnis@couriertimes.com

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Doylestown doctor's vaccine objection challenges legal precedent