Dozens of Republican-Led States File Lawsuits Against Biden's Big-Business Vaccine Mandate

More than two dozen Republican-led states have filed lawsuits against President Joe Biden's company vaccine mandates, the Associated Press reported.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued a requirement stating that businesses with over 100 employees must have a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing for the virus. At least 26 states are opposing the mandate and have asked courts to determine whether the Biden administration has the authority to enforce such a rule.

One state involved in the lawsuits is Missouri, which has over 3,000 private employers with nearly 1.3 million employees.

"This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise," said Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a court filing. The lawsuit was filed in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 11 states. The purpose of the case, he said, is "to protect personal freedoms, preserve Missouri businesses, and push back on bureaucratic tyrants who simply want power and control."

However, some people are pushing back on the validity of the lawsuits' claims.

"I think that Biden is on rock-solid legal ground," Lawrence Gostin told AP.

Gostin is the director of the World Health Organization's center on health law and a professor at Georgetown University Law Center. He claims that the law that created OSHA grants it the power to create and enforce vaccine mandates.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Biden Vaccination Site
More than two dozen Republican-led states have filed lawsuits against President Joe Biden's company vaccine mandates. Above, first lady Jill Biden elbow-bumps a man who just received a COVID-19 vaccine, during a visit at a vaccination center at First Choice Community Healthcare-South Valley Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on April 21, 2021. Photo by Mandel Ngan/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

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 spread of COVID," Karine Jean-Pierre, a spokeswoman for the White House, said during a briefing Thursday.

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."

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 Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican: "It is my duty, under the law, to prosecute or defend any actions in court when requested by the governor," he said in a statement.

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.

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.

Several businesses and associations also joined with the states' petitions, and some filed lawsuits on their own.

Among them are a conservative media company, two Wisconsin manufacturers, 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 showed up to work and served their communities in the face of COVID and hurricanes. Now I'm being told by the government to insert myself into their private health decisions?" Brandon Trosclair, owner of the grocery store chain that employs about 500 workers, said in a statement. "That's wrong and I won't stand for it."

The Daily Wire media company objected on several fronts, including the idea that employers will have to track which workers have been vaccinated and treat those who have received shots differently from those who have not.

"What the government is asking us to do is discriminate against our own employee over their own personal health care decisions," said Ryan Boreing, co-CEO of the company.

So far, courts have allowed businesses on their own to require employees to be vaccinated.

But Michael Elkins, a Florida-based employment lawyer, said those decisions do not necessarily mean judges will rule the same way when it comes to the federal government's requirement.

"You may see a federal judge, or a bunch of them, say, 'This is just overreach,'" Elkins said.

Benjamin Noren, a New York-based labor lawyer, said he thought the rule is likely to be struck down because OSHA was intended to deal with workplace hazards such as chemicals, not a virus. He said OSHA has made 10 emergency rules in the last five decades. Of the six that were challenged, only one survived intact.

"It's an innovative use by the Biden administration to figure out some way to mandate vaccination in the private sector," Noren said. "I hope it works. I have doubts."

Ahead of the OSHA rule, several states have passed laws or issued executive orders blocking or limiting employer mandates related to the virus.

In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson allowed such a bill to become law without his signature. It takes 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 a previous infection. Health officials say antibody testing should not be used to assess immunity against the virus and that people who have had it should still be vaccinated.

Hutchinson, however, noted that his state's opt-out law creates a difficult scenario for businesses if both it and the federal requirement—which does not allow for antibody tests in place of vaccinations—are in effect.

"We've put our businesses in a catch-22," he said. "You're going to be violating somebody's law here."

COVID 19 Testing Site
The federal government on Thursday announced new vaccine requirements for workers at companies with more than 100 employees as well as workers at health care facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients. Above, an Exam Corp Lab employee (right) wears a mask as she talks with a patient lined up for COVID-19 testing in Niles, Illinois, on October 21, 2020. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File