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Lawyer: President Biden could have legal battle following vaccine rule

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 9:29 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A sweeping new COVID-19 vaccine rule announced Thursday by President Joe Biden will affect nearly 100 million American workers.

Some of Shelby County’s largest employers already have vaccine mandates, but Biden’s announcement said businesses with 100 employees or over must mandate vaccines or require weekly COVID-19 testing for the unvaccinated.

The White House didn’t say when Biden’s new vaccine rule for large companies will take effect but said employees will have ample time to get vaccinated. Though it’s likely this new rule will eventually make its way through the courts with the Supreme Court possibly having the final say.

“My job as president is to protect all Americans,” Biden said during his Thursday afternoon address to the nation.

Biden said even though vaccine uptake is improving with four million more given in the United States in August compared to July, the amount of eligible people still refusing the vaccine, he said, is causing the pandemic to continue on.

“It makes it incredibly more frustrating when we have the tools to combat COVID-19 and a distinct minority of Americans supported by a distinct minority of elected officials are keeping us from turning the corner,” Biden said.

So, Biden said through executive orders he will mandate workplaces accepting federal money and contracts, plus federal workers within the executive branch get vaccinated.

“I get a lot of calls from businesses and employees about these mandates and how it affects them,” Memphis lawyer Alan Crone said.

Crone practices labor law at Crone Law Firm. He said vaccine mandates through the executive orders are within Biden’s authority.

However, mandates for other businesses will be tougher to do. The White House said the rule will be enacted through a forthcoming rule from the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA).

Crone said OSHA has an emergency temporary standard order that is tough to prove and hasn’t been used in decades.

“The department of labor has to determine that an agent or substance is toxic and in the workplace, and that an emergency order can be made to eradicate that,” Crone said.

Crone expects appeals to the rule are being drafted now. He’s predicting this issue will eventually see its way to the highest court of the land.

“I don’t know if he has this authority,” Crone said. “The only people who know whether he has this authority are the nine people on the Supreme Court. Ultimately, they’ll decide whether or not the federal government has this power.”

Most Shelby County hospital networks, some of the Mid-South’s largest employers, are already mandating the vaccine. Action News 5 reached out to several other large employers, including FedEx, International Paper, and AutoZone for comment Thursday evening, but did not hear back.

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