Louisiana Supreme Court to hear Ochsner COVID-19 vaccine mandate case

Andrew Capps
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Louisiana’s Supreme Court will hear a pair of cases over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees at Ochsner Health facilities in Lafayette and Shreveport on Dec. 7. 

Dozens of employees of Ochsner filed suit in Lafayette and Shreveport earlier this fall after the health system announced plans to mandate employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 29. 

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. 

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Attorneys for Ochsner previously objected to the expedited hearing in court documents, arguing that the employees did not have the right to quickly escalate the lawsuit to the state Supreme Court without going through the traditional appeals process, which could have added months to the suit. 

Both cases were initially dismissed by judges in their local jurisdictions who determined that the state’s at-will employment doctrine allowed Ochsner to mandate employees be vaccinated or else face termination.

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"They have a choice," Ochsner Lafayette General’s attorney Jim Gibson said in Lafayette court on Sep. 23. 

"They can get vaccinated, or they can go work somewhere else."

After losing in Lafayette, Faircloth said he had no doubt that the issue would have to be resolved by a higher court. 

"This is going to be appealed. There's no question," Faircloth said at the time.

"This case was never going to be decided at this level," he added.

After initial rulings favored Ochsner, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal in Shreveport reversed the dismissal of the case led by employees of Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport and installed a restraining order against Ochsner LSU from punishing employees who were not vaccinated by the Oct. 29 deadline. 

The Supreme Court of Louisiana has already upheld that restraining order until the Dec. 7 hearing where it will consider the fate of the employee’s case and Ochsner’s vaccine mandate. 

Follow Andrew Capps on Twitter or send an email to acapps@theadvertiser.com.