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Ochsner ‘deferring’ compliance with employee vaccine mandate in Shreveport, Monroe after legal setback

Ochsner Health CEO Warner Thomas said Saturday (Oct. 30) his company will appeal to the...
Ochsner Health CEO Warner Thomas said Saturday (Oct. 30) his company will appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court to secure authority to require COVID-19 vaccinations and testing for employees.
Published: Oct. 30, 2021 at 1:12 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Ochsner Health is delaying for now a requirement that employees of its Shreveport and Monroe facilities be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday or face dismissal or discipline, CEO Warner Thomas told WVUE-Fox 8 on Saturday (Oct. 30).

The decision comes two days after a legal setback for Louisiana’s largest healthcare system. After its vaccination mandate had passed muster with district courts that dismissed employee lawsuits in the two regions, the Louisiana 2nd Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport revived one of the challenges on Thursday. The three-judge panel remanded the lawsuit back to District Judge Craig Marcotte, ordering him to hold a hearing on the mandate and to block its enforcement until its legality is decided.

Though the state’s 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal in Southwest Louisiana rejected a request for a similar order that would have reinstated the Monroe lawsuit, Ochsner said it would defer enforcement of its mandate in both contested regions until the Louisiana Supreme Court rules on the matter.

“In light of the court’s decision Thursday evening, we are deferring our compliance deadline for all Ochsner LSU Health employees across facilities in Shreveport and Monroe until the matter is settled,” Warner said in a statement. “This includes deferring the requirement for all those unvaccinated to get tested weekly for COVID-19 starting Monday (Nov. 1). All employees will continue to be required to wear masks pursuant to CDC guidance. ... Our employee vaccination policy timeline will continue as planned at all other Ochsner Health facilities.”

Warner called the 2nd Circuit’s decision “surprising and disappointing,” and said it was “inconsistent with established Louisiana law as well as with decisions of courts across the country” upholding COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

“Ochsner Health intends to appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court and is confident we will prevail,” Warner said. “Not only is this policy the right thing to do for our patients and employees, it is clear that employers have the right to implement vaccine mandates.”

Warner said disciplinary action, including possible dismissal, awaits other Ochsner Health employees around the state who have not complied with the mandate.

“We expect that a small percentage of employees will not be in compliance with our policy by the initial Oct. 29 deadline and will take a leave or be suspended,” he said. “During the 30-day leave period, we will continue communicating with team members not yet in compliance about the options available to them. We hope to see our colleagues remain on the Ochsner team to continue their remarkable work for our patients and communities.”

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