Federal District Court denies two initial attempts to block federal vaccine mandate for employees
A federal district court refused to block the Biden administration’s vaccination mandate for employees on Monday, denying plaintiffs in two separate cases a chance to get immediate relief from the September presidential decree.
The first case involves 18 civilian employees and two active-duty military personnel who sued the Biden administration in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Their complaint describes a variety of constitutional arguments.
Employees and military requested a preliminary warrant injunction in late October. All 20 plaintiffs requested religious exceptions to the warrant.
A civilian employee has received an exception so far. Both Marines had their initial exception requests denied. They appealed to the Marine Corps commander, and those requests are pending, Federal District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her opinion.
The Biden administration has said federal employees who have medical or religious exceptions will not be disciplined while their claims are pending, a point US lawyers have reiterated in their proceedings for this case.
Kollar-Kotelly relied on this point several times in her opinion, which she published on Monday.
“These exemption requests all remain pending, and while they are pending, no complainant is being disciplined for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine,” Kollar-Kotelly wrote in his opinion. “The plaintiffs therefore come before this tribunal to complain about a compulsory vaccination which they may never need to do and about measures unfavorable to employment which they may never suffer.”
To obtain a preliminary injunction, individuals must generally demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their arguments, that they will suffer “irreparable harm” if they do not receive preliminary measures and that the injunction is in. the public interest.
Employees and the military have argued that the possibility of losing their jobs during the federal vaccine tenure creates irreparable harm. Kollar-Kotelly disagreed.
“While these complainants colorfully characterize their potential adverse employment actions as ‘imminent’,
“serious” and “life changing,” none of the federal employee plaintiffs have provided an explanation for the job-specific adverse actions they actually face, “she said. “This makes sense, given that every federal employee complainant has a pending exemption request, during which he is not disciplined for his vaccine refusal.”
Finally, the court said the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate how their experiences with the warrant could outweigh the potential harm felt by the public.
“Putting the vaccine mandate on federal employees could risk making sections of the public service sickening, prolonging remote work, hampering public access to government benefits and records, and slowing down government programs.” , wrote Kollar-Kotelly. “Civilian employees who continue to telecommute are not living in a vacuum. The ban on compulsory vaccinations in Decree 14043 endangers not only the health of employees of federal agencies, but also the health of those around them. “
The two sides have until the end of the week to publish a joint report on their next steps.
Church, et al. vs. Biden is one of many pending lawsuits challenging the vaccine mandate of federal employees. Here are a few more. This is not an exhaustive list.
There are several others that challenge the federal vaccine mandate for entrepreneurs. You can read some of these cases here.
Altschuld and. al c. Raimondo et al.
The second case involves more than 30 federal employee and contractor plaintiffs, who sued last month in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Employees work for the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Commerce, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice and the State, as well as for the Environmental Protection Agency, US Agency for International Development, CIA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. .
The contractors each work for DHS and the State Department. Together, the plaintiffs said the federal vaccine mandate violated their individual rights under the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to their original complaint.
Like the employees in the first case, these plaintiffs also sought an emergency injunction from the federal vaccine mandate.
In seeking immediate redress, the plaintiffs say their potential layoffs are far from “a normal situation” and, therefore, they argue, deserve an “extraordinary case”. They also said they “would suffer” irreversible damage to their professional and personal reputation “” which “will only increase as the pressure to meet the vaccination deadline draws near.”
Judge Tanya Chutkan said employees and contractors did not show “irreparable damage”.
“While the decrees provide for the possible dismissal of unvaccinated employees and contractors who do not benefit from an exemption, complainants are wrong to say that such dismissal is imminent or certain,” Chutkan wrote in his notice, which she also published on Monday.
During the initial proceedings of this case, the employees told the court that they had not received a formal notice calling for their dismissal and that they had not obtained a final date or timetable outlining the actions. potential negatives that their agencies could take against them. These concessions, Chutkan said, undermine the complainants’ claims of certain and irreparable harm.
“The plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate irreparable harm and are not entitled to a preliminary injunction. In so ruling, this tribunal is being guided by the century-old standard that mandatory vaccinations are an appropriate expression of the public interest in health and safety, ”added Chutkan.
AFGE Local 501 et al. vs. Biden et al.
A union council representing correctional officers from the Bureau of Prisons also sued the Biden administration for the federal vaccine mandate.
The lawsuit comes from the American Federation of Government Employees Council of Prison Locals, which represents 33,000 correctional officers across the country, and AFGE Local 501, which represents officers in Miami.
The union has filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
In its complaint, the BOP council said the federal vaccine mandate violated their due process rights under the 14th Amendment, as well as their rights to “privacy, autonomy and personal identity, including their right to reject mandated medical treatment and procedures ”.
The federal vaccine mandate does not comply with the notice and comment provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act, the plaintiffs argued. They also say the federal vaccine mandate violates their rights under the Privacy Act.
AFGE Local 501 et al. vs. Biden is still pending before the Federal District Court.
The union’s national office said its stance on the federal vaccine mandate, despite a lawsuit against one of its locals, had not changed.
In a message to its members in late September, AFGE said the federal vaccine mandate was legal. And in a series of Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the tenure, the union cited a case in 2002, where a federal appeals court upheld the Navy’s decision to fire two civilian employees who had refused the anthrax vaccine.
Ever since the Biden administration first announced a vaccine policy and later a mandate for federal employees, AFGE has consistently said it expects agencies to negotiate on the requirements. He also encouraged his members to get vaccinated.
National union president Everett Kelley on Tuesday asked the White House to extend the deadline federal employees must meet to comply with the vaccine mandate until January 4, when the Biden administration recently gave to subcontractors to receive their doses.