LAS VEGAS (CN) – A union representing health care workers says two hospitals threatened to fire nurses and office clerks if they failed to get mandatory flu and H1N1 vaccinations, or wear a surgical mask during their shift if they refused the shots. It is the second case in which nurses challenge the rules; a California group sued over the issue last week.
The Service Employees International Union says Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center and Sunrise Children’s Hospital violated an arbitration agreement by threatening its workers’ job safety when it made the requirement in September.
The union says in Federal Court that nurses and other business office clerks also were forced to sign a document acknowledging that their “failure to wear a surgical mask during duty will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.” It also required them to acknowledge that if they refused the vaccine or refused to wear a mask, the nurse “is voluntarily resigning (his or her) position,” the lawsuit states.
Hospital officials on Wednesday denied requiring workers to get the H1N1 shot, and said staff members are only required to get the seasonal flu shot.
“We have not required staff to get the H1N1 flu shot,” officials said in a statement. “Because the H1N1 flu is a blend of various flu strains most adults should have effective immunity. However, we are making the H1N1 vaccine available to staff and will increase that availability as more vaccine is delivered.”
Officials said more than 90 percent of staff members have voluntarily gotten the seasonal flu shot. “If they choose not to get the seasonal flu shot, they are required to wear a mask in patient care areas to help keep them and our patients from getting the flu.”
Earlier this month, a nurse manager at Sunrise alerted the union that workers not getting the mandatory flu shot also were required to wear colored dots on their name badges indicating whether or not they got the flue shot, according to the complaint.
The union says its grievance letters went unanswered, and wants the mandatory flu vaccinations stopped.
The union is represented by Michael Urban with Laquer Urban.