Lawsuits over workplace vaccine rule focus on states’ rights


By David A. Lieb, Geoff Mulvihill and Andrew DeMillo - Associated Press



President Joe Biden speaks Oct. 7 about COVID-19 vaccinations after touring a Clayco Corporation construction site for a Microsoft data center in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Biden’s plan to require vaccinations at all private employers of 100 workers or more has already hit a wall of opposition from Republican governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general.

President Joe Biden speaks Oct. 7 about COVID-19 vaccinations after touring a Clayco Corporation construction site for a Microsoft data center in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Biden’s plan to require vaccinations at all private employers of 100 workers or more has already hit a wall of opposition from Republican governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general.


AP Photo/Susan Walsh

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than two dozen Republican-led states filed lawsuits Friday challenging President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for private companies, setting up a high-stakes legal showdown pitting federal authority against states’ rights.

The requirement issued Thursday by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration applies to businesses with more than 100 employees. Their workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests. The lawsuits ask courts to decide whether the administration’s effort to curtail the pandemic represents a federal power grab and usurps the authority of states to set health policy.

At least 26 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule.

“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a court filing in the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 11 states.

The Biden administration has been encouraging widespread vaccinations as the quickest way out of the pandemic. A White House spokeswoman said Thursday that the mandate was intended to halt the spread of a disease that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the U.S.

The administration says it is confident that its requirement, which includes penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules pre-empt state laws.

“The administration clearly has the authority to protect workers, and actions announced by the president are designed to save lives and stop the spread of COVID,” Karine Jean-Pierre, a spokeswoman for the White House, said during a briefing Thursday.

Lawrence Gostin, a 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 the power to set minimum workplace safety measures.

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

Critics have taken aim at some aspects of the requirement, including that it was adopted as an emergency measure rather than after the agency’s regular rule-making process.

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

Missouri’s lawsuit was joined by the Republican attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Also joining the lawsuit was the office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the only Democratic attorney general to take part in the legal challenges to the mandate.

In a statement, Miller said he was filing at the behest of Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican: “It is my duty, under the law, to prosecute or defend any actions in court when requested by the governor.”

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

The states filed the lawsuits in the most conservative appeals courts in the country, courts where appointees of former President Donald Trump bolstered Republican-appointed majorities. It’s unclear whether different judges will rule on the challenges separately at first, or whether the cases will be consolidated in one court early in the process.

President Joe Biden speaks Oct. 7 about COVID-19 vaccinations after touring a Clayco Corporation construction site for a Microsoft data center in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Biden’s plan to require vaccinations at all private employers of 100 workers or more has already hit a wall of opposition from Republican governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general.
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2021/11/web1_AP21308037616843.jpgPresident Joe Biden speaks Oct. 7 about COVID-19 vaccinations after touring a Clayco Corporation construction site for a Microsoft data center in Elk Grove Village, Ill. Biden’s plan to require vaccinations at all private employers of 100 workers or more has already hit a wall of opposition from Republican governors, state lawmakers and attorneys general. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

By David A. Lieb, Geoff Mulvihill and Andrew DeMillo

Associated Press

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