- The attorneys general for 24 states in a Sept. 16 letter threatened legal action against the federal government in response to President Joe Biden's recently announced employer vaccine mandate.
- The signatories said the mandate will exacerbate a labor shortage, driving workers to quit rather than comply.
- The AGs alleged that the order is not supported by federal law and said that if Biden doesn't reverse course, they will "seek every available legal option."
Biden announced Sept. 9 that the federal government — specifically, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration — would soon require that employers with more than 100 employees mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for workers, with an option for workers to test weekly instead.
Neither the president nor OSHA has indicated a timeline for such a rule, but some employers have rolled out mandates in the meantime, perhaps viewing the announcement as cover for employee pushback. Still, legal challenges to this mandate are all but guaranteed, employment law experts have said.
The fight against Biden's executive order echos similar frustrations already expressed by restaurant operators in cities where mandates have gone into effect. In August, several restaurants sued New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for requiring customers and employees to show proof of vaccinations to enter their establishments. These restaurants allege this requirement is arbitrary because both vaccinated and unvaccinated people have been contracting COVID-19. Another restaurant owners said about 20% of his staff said they planned to resign over New York City's mandate.
And while mandates' effects on the labor market remain to be seen, early reports are positive: United Airlines' CEO told CNN last week that of its 67,000 employees, the number of those who have resigned over its mandate are in the "single digits."
Many restaurant operators have already been encouraging employees to get vaccinated and offering paid time off and other incentives. Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said during the summer the chain would consider requiring vaccinations of its employees once the shots received full Federal Drug Administration approval, but has not provided an update since then. McDonald's is requiring its corporate staff to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 27.
Employers implementing such mandates should prioritize consistent implementation and enforcement, experts previously told HR Dive. And HR also must be prepared to consider exemption requests as religious or disability accommodations.