As COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers face court challenges in Louisiana this week and next, just 1% of staff at most Ochsner Health facilities stand to lose their jobs for refusing to get the vaccine.
According to Ochsner, nearly 30,000 employees at its facilities across Louisiana and Mississippi have either gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 or been granted a medical or religious exemption from the shot.
But 280 employees, the majority of whom do temporary work for the health system, have not complied with Ochsner’s mandate and the Oct. 29 deadline to get vaccinated or prove an exemption, meaning they will no longer work for Ochsner.
“We are proud to announce that nearly 99% of Ochsner employees have come into compliance with our vaccination policy,” Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas said in a release.
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Those figures do not include employees at Ochsner’s Shreveport and Monroe locations, who are insulated from the company’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate because of a judicial order from the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport that prevented Ochsner from implementing the mandate there.
The figures include employees of Ochsner in Lafayette, where a similar lawsuit was rejected.
Ochsner employees in Shreveport and Lafayette sued earlier this year when the vaccine mandate for employees was announced, though trial judges sided with Ochsner in both cases, finding that as a private employer, the health system can impose the vaccine mandate on its employees, who are free to quit and find work elsewhere.
But the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport reversed the decision made by a Caddo Parish judge, prohibiting Ochsner from implementing the mandate in Shreveport and Monroe and from disciplining employees there who refused to get vaccinated to prove an exemption.
That ruling, and the Lafayette ruling in favor of Ochsner, will go before the Louisiana Supreme Court on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Attorney Jimmy Faircloth, who is representing employees in both cases, called the expedited hearing before the state Supreme Court “terrific news.”
“It is rare, if not unprecedented, for the Court to use its supervisory power to address purely legal issues without a trial or a decision from an ordinary appeal. The Court surely appreciates the gravity and timing of these issues,” he said in a release when the hearing was announced in November.
Tuesday’s state Supreme Court hearing will come just a week after a federal judge in Monroe ruled against the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers on Tuesday, which has already been appealed.
“While the (federal) rule requiring COVID-19 vaccination for healthcare workers has been challenged, as a private employer, Ochsner Health retains the right to enact policies that protect patients and staff,” the health system wrote in a release Wednesday.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Amid lawsuits, just 1% of impacted Ochsner staff rebuffs vax mandate