CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey says private employers in West Virginia should hold the line and not change their policies to follow the new federal vaccination mandate from OSHA.
The state of West Virginia, represented by Morrisey, is one of seven states that have joined together to challenges the new mandate that says private employers with 100 or more workers are required to have workers fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.
Morrisey told MetroNews Friday the mandate, pushed by President Joe Biden, “represents an egregious power grab by the Biden administration and we intend to stop it.”
Morrisey said his current advice to private employers in West Virginia is not to change what that are currently doing.
“Hold firm. We believe we have a good chance of prevailing,” Morrisey said. “It doesn’t do any good to change your policies now when the odds of the OSHA mandate rule being thrown out are solid.”
Gov. Jim Justice admitted Friday the OSHA mandate trumps a bill he signed into law last month that would require those employers who have vaccination mandates to also provide medical and religious exemptions.
Justice said he “adamantly disagrees” with the Biden administration mandate.
“I think within all in me we ought to be respectful of people’s freedoms and choice,” Justice said.
He predicted the coalition Morrisey is part of would be successful.
Justice said he continues to support COVID-19 vaccines and he said he continues to urge everyone to be vaccinated but he also said again Friday it’s a matter of choice.
“It should be a choice of the people—freedom. That’s how I believe, that’s how I think,” Justice said.
West Virginia is in the lawsuit with Kentucky, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The challenge has been filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The states are asking for an immediate stay and a preliminary injunction.
Morrisey said the mandate, which requires weekly COVID testing of workers if they aren’t vaccinated, reads new authorities into the OSHA statute that don’t exist.
“We’ve been asking the Biden administration for months now to not go forward with this because we think they will fail in court,” Morrisey said.
At the heart of the challenge, according to Morrisey, is the lack of legal authority the federal government has to act against private employers in the OSHA statue being used.
“It doesn’t speak to the question of whether an individual should or should not get vaccinated. This is about insuring that the Constitution is upheld and the federal government does not seize power that it does not possess,” Morrisey said.
There are multiple coalitions that have filed challenges across the country, Morrisey said.
“We think this on the fast track to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
According to OSHA, the emergency temporary standard also includes:
–Determine the vaccination status of each employee, obtain acceptable proof of vaccination status from vaccinated employees and maintain records and a roster of each employee’s vaccination status.
–Require employees to provide prompt notice when they test positive for COVID-19 or receive a COVID-19 diagnosis. Employers must then remove the employee from the workplace, regardless of vaccination status; employers must not allow them to return to work until they meet required criteria.
–Ensure each worker who is not fully vaccinated is tested for COVID-19 at least weekly (if the worker is in the workplace at least once a week) or within 7 days before returning to work (if the worker is away from the workplace for a week or longer).
–Ensure that, in most circumstances, each employee who has not been fully vaccinated wears a face covering when indoors or when occupying a vehicle with another person for work purposes.
“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 an agency news release. “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.”