Judge Rules Kentucky Hospital Employees are Subject to COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky ruled that employees at Kentucky’s Saint Elizabeth Medical Center Inc. must comply with the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate while its legality is being debated. The Court denied the employee’s motion for a temporary restraining order, saying that employees are not likely to win on their argument that the mandate violates their constitutional rights because there is no state action involved since St. Elizabeth’s is a private hospital. The judge explained that private “hospitals, no matter how much federal funding they may receive, are generally not state actors for purposes of constitutional questions.” In addressing the employees claims that the mandate is in violation of Title VII, which prohibits workplace discrimination, and the American with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, the judge cited the fact that the hospital has granted exemptions to most employees who applied for one based on either a medical condition or sincerely held religious belief, and there is no evidence of adverse employment action against an employee for refusal to get a vaccine.