A conservative Wisconsin law firm on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block soon-to-be implemented directives from the Biden administration that would mandate businesses with more than 100 employees require staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The new policy from the White House would require employees at qualifying companies to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit to at least weekly testing. The new rule would also require businesses to give employees paid time off to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and make unvaccinated employees wear masks while at work.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty with the federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, asks the court for an emergency stay of the White House’s directive, which takes effect Friday.
WILL filed the lawsuit on behalf of two Darien-based businesses — Tankcraft Corporation and Plasticraft Corporation — and argues that while “vaccination may be the right thing to do for some, this type of federal management of personal healthcare decisions, even if permissible in the abstract, must be lawful in its execution.”
The conservative law firm says the emergency directive from the Biden administration is unconstitutional and argues on several grounds that it should not be allowed to go into effect.
In the suit, WILL argues on behalf of the corporations that the coronavirus “is not the type of ‘substance,’ ‘agent,’ or ‘hazard’” that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has authority over.
OHSA “may address risks and hazards in the workplace, not in society broadly,” the group writes in its lawsuit.
The businesses also contend that emergency standards from OSHA must be necessary to protect workers from “grave danger.”
“An (Emergency Temporary Standard) is reserved for extreme cases and may be issued only where there is a ‘grave danger,’ not just a ‘significant risk,’” the lawsuit claims.
COVID-19 has killed at least 8,580 Wisconsinites, according to the state Department of Health Services, and outbreaks of the disease at workplaces across the state and county have been well-documented throughout the pandemic.
The suit further argues that the businesses “will be irreparably harmed absent a stay.”
“Labor disruption and uncertainty are irreparable harms, particularly where the disruption leads to the loss of future business,” WILL wrote, citing a 2008 court ruling.
“This new rule is illegal and unconstitutional. It circumvents the normal legal process, along with Congress, to claim emergency powers to impose a mandate on American business,” WILL president Rick Esenberg said in a statement. “However you feel about the COVID vaccine or even the very different question of a vaccine mandate, the Biden administration is claiming an extraordinary power to rule by decree that could be used in the future in almost unlimited and unforeseeable ways.”
Included in the exhibits attached to the lawsuit are comments from Steven Fettig, secretary and treasurer of Tankcraft Corporation and Plasticraft Corporation.
Fettig said in the documents that “COVID has not presented and does not present a grave danger to our workers.”
Instead, he said, the directive from OSHA “will exacerbate our current labor uncertainty and will cause labor disruptions.”
“In fact, I know multiple employees who have already indicated that they will not comply with the mandate and will therefore quit if it goes into effect,” he wrote, adding that he believes the new rules will make it more difficult to recruit new workers.
This story will be updated if the appeals court takes action.