Nurses Win Decision Against Virginia Mason's Mandatory Flu Vaccination Policy

SEATTLE -- Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA), representing more than 600 registered nurses at Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC), won an arbitration decision against VMMC which stops the hospital from forcing RNs to receive flu shots.  This matter was moved to arbitration after WSNA filed a petition in Federal Court seeking an injunction to stop the hospital's policy, which made flu shots a condition of employment and threatened to fire anyone who did not comply.

The arbitrator's decision found that the employer violated the terms and the very purpose of the collective bargaining agreement between WSNA and VMMC by unilaterally implementing this policy.  The employer was ordered to "cease and desist its intended implementation of the flu immunization policy and remove such condition of employment from its Fitness for Duty policy."

 WSNA says it supports the flu vaccination and strongly encourages nurses to get them.  But it says it opposes any healthcare facility threatening to fire people if they do not submit to the mandatory vaccination, especially in the absence of a declared public health emergency and a recommendation for mandatory vaccination by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"This decision stops VMMC from forcing RNs to get a flu vaccination against their will.  It's a basic right for people to make decisions regarding their own healthcare treatment.  As healthcare professionals, we know that education, accessibility and incentives -- not brute force -- are the best way to encourage people to comply," said Barbara Frye, RN, director of labor relations at WSNA.

"The registered nurses at VMMC will not tolerate an employer who threatens to fire nurses who choose not receive the flu vaccination.  We do, however, welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the employer in an effort to educate nurses and the public about the importance of flu vaccination," said LauraLee Mayorkinos, RN, WSNA local unit chair at VMMC.

Source: Washington State Nurses Association