Louisiana Supreme Court Upholds Private Employer Vaccine Mandates
The Louisiana Supreme Court ruled that employees have no cause of action against their private employers who require COVID-19 vaccines.
By Bradley C. Guin
Reversing the Second Circuit, the Louisiana Supreme Court emphasized the nature of the employment relationship in Louisiana. Under the employment-at-will doctrine, “an employer is at liberty to dismiss an at-will employee and, reciprocally, the employee is at liberty to leave the employment to seek other opportunities.” The high court rejected the employees’ argument that the vaccine mandate violated the Louisiana Medical Consent Law. The Court noted that the consent law applies to the relationship between a healthcare provider and a patient—not between an employer and an employee. The Court also rejected the employees’ argument that the vaccine mandate violated their constitutional right to privacy in La. Const. art. I, § 5, noting that University Health is not a state actor and, therefore, not constrained by the Louisiana Constitution’s guarantee against privacy invasions. The same result was reached in Nelson v. Ochsner Lafayette General, No. 21-01453 (La. 2022), --- So. 3d ---.
Both Hayes and Nelson underscore that private employers are generally free to impose requirements upon their employees; and when employees fail to follow those requirements, the employment-at-will doctrine allows the employer to discharge or otherwise discipline them. Both cases also highlight an important distinction between state and private actors. Because a private employer is not a state actor, it cannot violate the constitutional right to privacy in La. Const. art. I, § 5.