Workplace Vaccine Rule Lawsuits Focus on State Rights | Ohio News


By DAVID A. LIEB, GEOFF MULVIHILL and ANDREW DeMILLO, Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (AP) – More than two dozen Republican-led states filed lawsuits Friday against President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for private companies, setting up a high-stakes legal showdown between the federal authority for state rights.

The requirement issued by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Thursday applies to companies with more than 100 employees. Their workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 4 or the face mask and weekly testing requirements. The lawsuits are asking the courts to decide whether the administration’s efforts to reduce the pandemic represent a federal takeover and usurp state authority to set health policy.

At least 27 states have filed lawsuits challenging the rule.

“This warrant is unconstitutional, illegal and reckless,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a case filed with the St. Louis-based 8th United States Court of Appeals on behalf of 11 states.

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The Biden administration has encouraged widespread immunizations as the fastest way out of the pandemic. A White House spokeswoman said on Thursday the mandate was to stop the spread of a disease that has killed more than 750,000 in the United States

The administration says it believes its requirement, which includes penalties of nearly $ 14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules prevail over state laws.

Seema Nanda, an attorney for the United States Department of Labor, said in a statement Friday that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act gives OSHA the power to act quickly in an emergency if it finds that workers are exposed to serious danger. The agency maintains that its temporary rule also takes precedence over any state or local bans on employers’ ability to demand vaccines.

“We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court,” Nanda said.

Lawrence Gostin, professor at Georgetown University Law Center and director of the World Health Organization’s center on health law, said the half-century-old law that created OSHA gives it power define minimum occupational safety measures.

“I think Biden is on rock solid legal ground,” he said.

Critics have targeted aspects of the requirement, including the fact that it was adopted as an emergency measure rather than after the agency’s regular rulemaking process.

“This is a real emergency,” said Gostin, who spoke to the Biden administration about the requirement. “In fact, it’s a national crisis. Any delay would cause thousands of deaths. “

The Missouri trial was joined by Republican attorneys general from Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the only Democratic attorney general to have participated in the court challenges to the warrant, also joined the trial.

In a statement, Miller said he was filing at the request of Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican: “It is my duty under the law to prosecute or defend any legal action at the request of the governor. “

Other state coalitions also filed lawsuits Friday: Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Utah to the New Orleans-based 5th US Court of Appeals; Kansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia in the 6th Cincinnati-based Tour; and Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the 11th Atlanta Tour. Later Friday, Indiana filed in the Chicago-based 7th Circuit.

States have taken legal action in the country’s most conservative appeals courts, courts where those appointed by former President Donald Trump have bolstered Republicans appointed majorities. It is not clear whether different judges will rule on the challenges separately at the start, or if the cases will be consolidated into a single court at the start of the process.

Several businesses, associations and religious groups have also joined the state petitions, and some have taken legal action themselves.

Among them are a conservative media company, two manufacturers in Wisconsin, companies in Michigan and Ohio, the owner of 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi, and a group of remote workers in Texas. All are represented by conservative law firms.

“Over the past 20 months, my employees have shown up for work and served their communities in the face of COVID and hurricanes. Now the government is telling me to fit into their private health decisions? “Brandon Trosclair, owner of grocery stores that employ about 500 workers, said in a statement.” This is wrong and I will not stand it.

Media company Daily Wire has opposed on several fronts, including the idea that employers will have to track which workers have been vaccinated and treat those who have been vaccinated differently than those who have not.

“What the government is asking us to do is discriminate against our own employees for their own healthcare decisions,” said Jeremy Boreing, co-CEO of the company.

Shannon Royce, president of the Christian Employers Alliance, said the group is not challenging the rule as opposed to vaccines, noting that some members of the group have urged employees to be vaccinated. Instead, they “oppose being used as a tool” of the federal government.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the workplace rule also changes the relationship of religious organizations with their employees.

“This, I believe, is a form of government coercion – turning a religious institution into a form of government coercion that we must resist,” Mohler said.

So far, the courts have allowed companies to require vaccination of their employees. But Michael Elkins, a Florida-based employment lawyer, said those rulings don’t necessarily mean judges will rule the same when it comes to federal government requirements.

“You can see a federal judge, or a bunch of them, say, ‘It’s just overbreadth,’” Elkins said.

Benjamin Noren, a New York-based labor attorney, said he believed the rule would likely be overturned because OSHA was meant to address workplace hazards such as chemicals, not a virus . He said OSHA has established 10 emergency rules over the past five decades. Of the six that were challenged, only one survived intact.

“This is an innovative use by the Biden administration to find a way to make vaccination mandatory in the private sector,” Noren said. “I hope it works. I have doubts.”

Prior to OSHA’s rule, several states passed laws or issued executive orders blocking or limiting the mandates of employers related to the virus.

In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson allowed such a bill to become law without his signature. It comes into effect early next year and allows employees to opt out of vaccine requirements if they are tested weekly for the virus or can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies from an infection. former. Health officials say antibody tests should not be used to assess immunity to the virus and people who have had it should always be vaccinated.

Hutchinson, however, noted that her state’s opt-out law creates a difficult scenario for businesses if she and the federal requirement – which does not allow antibody testing in place of vaccinations – are in place. .

“We put our businesses in a catch-22,” he said. “You’re going to break someone’s law here. “

Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press writers Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, also contributed; and Alexandra Jaffe and Mark Sherman in Washington, DC

Copyright 2021 The Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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