11 states sue over federal vaccination mandate for private businesses

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Eleven states sued President Joe Biden's administration Nov. 5 over a COVID-19 vaccination mandate on private employers with more than 100 employees.

The lawsuit — which involves Missouri, Montana, Arizona, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, New Hampshire and Wyoming, as well as private and nonprofit groups — was filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

"This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful and unwise," the lawsuit reads. "The federal government lacks constitutional authority under its enumerated powers to issue this mandate, and its attempt to do so unconstitutionally infringes on the states' powers expressly reserved by the 10th Amendment. [The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration] also lacks statutory authority to issue the [emergency temporary standard], which it shoe-horned into statutes that govern workplace safety, and which were never intended to federalize public health policy."

OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard Nov. 4 outlining COVID-19 vaccination requirements for employers with 100 or more employees. The standard is expected to cover 84 million private-sector workers and two-thirds of the U.S. private-sector workforce. 

OSHA said businesses covered by the emergency temporary standard must put in place a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. Under the standard, employers also must provide paid time off to workers to get inoculated and provide paid leave to employees to recover from any side effects.

"COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases," U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said in a news release announcing the emergency temporary standard. "We must take action to implement this emergency temporary standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19. Many businesses understand the benefits of having their workers vaccinated against COVID-19, and we expect many will be pleased to see this OSHA rule go into effect."

But the emergency temporary standard is getting some pushback from states and business groups, which are concerned about disruptions during the holiday season.

The lawsuit filed by the 11 states seeks to halt the mandate for private businesses.

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