Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Nurses union sues hospital operator over vaccine mandate:

Lawsuit highlights employer limits in fighting flu

The Service Employees International Union Local 1107 is suing the operators of Sunrise Hospital and Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center, claiming the hospitals' H1N1 vaccination policies are a violation of its collective bargaining agreement. But the lawsuit may only be the start of litigation over how far employers can go in the name of disease prevention.

The federal complaint filed Oct. 29 named Sunrise and Southern Hills' parent Healthcare Corporation of America, and seeks an injunction until an arbitration hearing can be held. At issue is the new policy of the HCA hospitals to require employees to get the seasonal flu shot.

The H1N1 vaccine was also initially mandated, but that requirement was later dropped due to the shortage of the vaccine, Local 1107 union spokeswoman Amber Lopez-Lasater said. The union is also making a pre-emptive strike against any forced H1N1 vaccination policy in its lawsuit.

"We think it should be an individual decision made by the trained health care providers," she said.

HCA's refusal to meet and negotiate with union representatives sparked the lawsuit, added Lopez-Lasater. She claims such a meeting is required under the collective bargaining agreement.

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