The White House announced a sweeping new vaccine mandate for all businesses with 100 employees or more: workers will have until Jan. 4 to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests.
While Illinois leaders are expected to follow the new policies, officials in neighboring Indiana plan on taking the fight to court. Indiana argues the federal government is overstepping amid new regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If companies don’t follow the new rules – OSHA could fine them up to $14,000 for each employee in violation.
“This is a direct attack on states’ rights. This is a direct attack on individual liberties and freedom, and it’s a complete overreach of the federal government,” said Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita.
Indiana is one of at least 10 Republican-led states announcing plans to sue over President Joe Biden’s new federal vaccine requirements.
By Jan. 4, workers at companies with more than a hundred employees must be fully vaccinated or test negative weekly at their own cost. Workers at health care facilities that treat Medicaid and Medicare patients also have to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 – and there’s no testing alternative for them. Federal contractors must also be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, which is already a deadline extension.
These requirements will apply to about 84 million workers, but it’s not clear how many of those employees are unvaccinated.
“You’re talking about drastic and big change here and not to mention the employees that are simply going to retire and not come back,” Rokita said.
Indiana’s attorney general says he plans to contest all three points – as early as Thursday.
“We’re and other states attorneys general are stepping into the breach here to get this law, this mandate stayed, so that we can really preserve our economy,” Rokita said.
But some legal experts say the fight is one he and other states likely won’t win because the pandemic presents a grave danger, which allows the federal government to act.
“I think it’s really hard to say that something that’s killed almost three-quarters of a million Americans isn’t a grave danger. I think they’d be hard-pressed to argue that,” said Sonia Bychkov Green, a law professor at the University of Illinois Chicago.
“Even though the federal government has limited powers, and I have a lot of respect for that, and I have a lot of respect for the rights of states, this is not one of those areas where states get to step in and make their own decisions,” Bychkov Green said. “This is an area where the federal government at least is able to regulate if not has to step in and regulate because this is a national crisis that crosses state borders.”