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Complaints about vaccination regulations in the workplace focus on states’ rights National

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

JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri (AP) – More than two dozen Republican-led states filed lawsuits on Friday to challenge President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements for private companies and initiate a high-stakes legal showdown involving the federal agencies against state rights compete.

The regulation issued by the Federal Office for Occupational Safety and Health on Thursday applies to companies with more than 100 employees. Your employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or meet the requirements for face masks and weekly tests by January 4th. The lawsuits ask courts to determine whether the government’s efforts to contain the pandemic constitute a federal seizure of power and usurping states’ authority to set health policies.

At least 27 states have filed lawsuits against the rule.

“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful and unwise,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a lawsuit before the 8th St. Louis Court of Appeals on behalf of 11 states.

The Biden government has encouraged widespread vaccination as the fastest way out of the pandemic. A White House spokeswoman said Thursday that the mandate is designed to stop the spread of a disease that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the United States

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The government is confident that its requirement, which includes fines of nearly $ 14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges, in part because its security regulations pre-empt state laws.

U.S. Department of Labor attorney Seema Nanda said in a statement Friday that federal occupational health and safety law gives OSHA the power to act quickly in an emergency if it determines that workers are at serious risk. The agency claims its temporary ruling also anticipates any state or local prohibitions on employers’ ability to require vaccines.

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

Lawrence Gostin, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and director of the World Health Organization’s Center for Health Law, said the half-century-old law that created OSHA gives it the power to establish minimum safety measures in the workplace.

“I think Biden has a rock-solid legal foundation,” he said.

Critics have targeted some aspects of the requirement, including the fact that it was adopted as an emergency measure rather than following 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 lawsuit was joined by the Republican Attorneys General of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The office of the Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who was the only Democratic attorney general to participate in the legal challenges of the mandate, also participated in the lawsuit.

In a statement, Miller said he had filed a motion at the behest of Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican: “It is my duty under the law to prosecute or defend all actions in court if the governor so requests.”

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

The states filed the suits in the most conservative appeals courts in the country, courts in which Republican-appointed majorities were backed by former President Donald Trump’s appointments. It is unclear whether different judges will initially decide on the appeals separately or whether the cases will be summarized in one court at an early stage.

Several companies, associations and religious groups also joined the petitions of the states and some filed their own lawsuits.

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

“For the past 20 months my co-workers have come to work and served their communities in the face of COVID and hurricanes. Now, am I being told by the government to interfere in 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 take it. “

Media company Daily Wire protested on several fronts, including the idea that employers need to keep track of which workers have been vaccinated and treat those who have been vaccinated differently from those who haven’t.

“What the government is asking of us is to discriminate against our own employees in making their own personal health decisions,” said Jeremy Boreing, co-CEO of the company.

Shannon Royce, president of the Christian Employers Alliance, said the group did not question the rule out of rejection of vaccines, noting that some group members had incentivized employees to get the vaccine. Instead, they refuse to be used as a tool of the federal government.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the workplace regime is also changing the way religious organizations relate to their employees.

“I believe this is a form of state coercion – to transform a religious institution into a form of state coercion that we have to resist,” said Mohler.

So far, courts have allowed companies to require their employees to be vaccinated. However, Michael Elkins, a Florida-based labor attorney, said these decisions do not necessarily mean that judges will rule the same way regarding federal government requirements.

“You might see a federal judge or a bunch of them say, ‘This is just an exaggeration,'” Elkins said.

Benjamin Noren, a New York-based labor attorney, said he believes the rule is likely to be lifted as OSHA should deal with workplace hazards like chemicals, not viruses. He said OSHA has established 10 emergency rules over the past five decades. Of the six challenged, only one survived unharmed.

“It is an innovative effort by the Biden government to find a way to make vaccinations mandatory in the private sector,” said Noren. “I hope it works. I have doubts.”

Prior to the OSHA rule, several states passed laws or issued executive orders that block or restrict employer mandates related to the virus.

In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson allowed such a law to go into effect without his signature. It will go into effect early next year and will allow employees to opt out of mandatory vaccination if they are tested for the virus weekly or can prove they have COVID-19 antibodies from a previous infection. Health officials say antibody tests should not be used to assess immunity to the virus and that people who have had it should be vaccinated anyway.

However, Hutchinson noted that his state’s opt-out law presents a tough scenario for businesses when both it and the state requirement – which doesn’t allow antibody testing instead of vaccination – are in place.

“We put our stores 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 also contributed Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; 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 in any way without permission.

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