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Schmitt sues Biden administration over workplace vaccination mandates

Attorney General Eric Schmitt led a coalition of 11 states on a lawsuit Friday attempting to halt the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements for large employers.

“Local business owners have told me that the vaccine mandate would decimate their businesses, including some that have been around for decades, and they’re certainly not alone – there are thousands of businesses in Missouri alone that could be negatively affected by this mandate,” Schmitt said. “That’s why I’m taking Joe Biden and his administration to court – to protect personal freedoms, preserve Missouri businesses, and push back on bureaucratic tyrants who simply want power and control.”

Schmitt was joined by attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Hampshire, Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming. Several religious schools and businesses also joined the legal challenge. 

The rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers with at least 100 workers to ensure they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly tests by Jan. 4. Employers must require unvaccinated employees wear a face covering and provide paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and recover from side effects by Dec. 5. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is also requiring all health care workers, clinical and non-clinical, under Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Like the OSHA rule, the deadline for health care workers to be fully vaccinated is Jan. 4, and exemptions will be permitted for people with medical or religious reasons, a senior administration official told reporters this week. 

Both rules will cover about two-thirds of the country’s workforce, according to the White House. 

“Vaccination requirements are good for the economy. They not only increase vaccination rates but they help send people back to work — as many as 5 million American workers,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “They make our economy more resilient in the face of COVID and keep our businesses open.” 

The rules were unveiled Thursday, and Schmitt quickly vowed to file suit as soon as they were officially published. 

The administration previously announced vaccination requirements for federal employees and contractors. Schmitt is leading a multistate lawsuit challenging that requirement, and Gov. Mike Parson issued an executive order allowing state employees to forgo the vaccine for religious or health reasons. 

A senior administration official told reporters this week that OSHA does have the legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard since “workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them.” 

The official also said the rule preempts any state or political subdivision from “adopting and enforcing workplace requirements relating to these issues, except under the authority of a federally-approved state plan.” 

OSHA will conduct planned inspections to ensure workplaces are in compliance with the new rule, a senior administration official said, and OSHA will follow up on employee complaints. 

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt also weighed in on the issue with a resolution disapproving of the “misguided, costly, and unworkable” private sector vaccine requirement this week.

More than 55 percent of Missourians have received at least an initial dose of vaccine, while 49 percent are fully inoculated. 

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