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51 employees file lawsuit against Henry Ford Health System over COVID vaccine mandate

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio

Updated September 10, 2021 at 4:51 p.m.:

Documents filed on Friday show that the attorneys for the 51 plaintiffs withdrew a lawsuit against Henry Ford Health System and the request for a temporary restraining order.

The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, said the health system's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees violated fourteenth amendment rights and put employees at risk.

Henry Ford deferred to the attorneys when asked for comment. Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not respond to a request for comment.

Original post: September 8, 2021, 9:44 p.m.:

Henry Ford Health System announced earlier this summer that it would mandate a COVID-19 vaccine for its more than 30,000 employees, making it the first health system in Michigan to do so. Now, 51 employees are suing Henry Ford over its vaccine mandate.

According to Henry Ford, 92% of its employees have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 23 of the 51 plaintiffs are registered nurses at one of the health system's campuses.

The lawsuit claims the vaccine mandate violates the plaintiffs' Fourteenth Amendment rights to personal integrity and bodily autonomy, as well as the right to refuse medical treatment.

In addition, the suit takes issue with Henry Ford's purpose in mandating the vaccine, to "ensure the health and safety of HFHS employees, patients, visitors, and others." The suit says that is not Henry Ford's job, but the job of the state.

"Ensuring the health and safety of the people of Michigan is a Public Function, traditionally the exclusive prerogative of the State," it reads. "HFHS has no duty, or right to violate the liberty protected by the Constitution of the United States to fulfill a function of our duly elected State Government. HFHS may not act to implement purely public policy and avoid Constitutional scrutiny when doing so. "

The lawsuit also falsely claims that the vaccines are "ineffective," and that mandating them put the plaintiffs at risk of bodily harm.  It's asking the court to declare Henry Ford's vaccine mandate to be unconstitutional, and enjoin it from enforcing it, as well as reimburse the plaintiffs for costs and attorney fees.

A motion hearing has been set for Friday, September 10 at 3 p.m. before U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg. 

A spokesman for Henry Ford provided the following statement:

"We remain confident that vaccination is the most powerful tool we all have against the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond that, we cannot comment on pending litigation."

Editor's note: Henry Ford is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Caroline is a third year history major at the University of Michigan. She also works at The Michigan Daily, where she has been a copy editor and an opinion columnist. When she’s not at work, you can find her down at Argo Pond as a coxswain for the Michigan men’s rowing team. Caroline loves swimming, going for walks, being outdoors, cooking, trivia, and spending time with her two-year-old cat, Pepper.
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