Tennessee AG questions legality of Biden's vaccine mandate

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Posted at 11:18 AM, Sep 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-17 12:19:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery has raised legal concerns regarding President Joe Biden's plan for mandating vaccines for companies with more than 100 employees or weekly testing for COVID-19.

"I am concerned that this unprecedented assertion of OSHA's emergency regulatory power does not comply with the requirements of the OSH Act or the restraints of the U.S. Constitution," Slatery wrote.

He said it is difficult to see how OSHA can satisfy the "stringent requirements of the OSH Act" regarding the proposed emergency temporary standard.

Slatery wrote that many employers in the state have taken steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. "A nationwide policy that applies across the board fails to consider the steps employers have already taken to reduce risks and protect their workers," he said.

Slatery also stated in the letter that mandatory vaccines or testing are not "necessary" for every employee.

"The White House and OSHA stated time and again that masking and other measures were sufficient to protect employees," Slatery wrote.

He went on to say vaccines are available for all eligible people who want one and millions have natural immunity from previously being exposed to the virus.

"Whether due to widespread vaccination, natural immunity, or existing protective measures at a job site, a blanket vaccinate-or-test mandate is not necessary for every employee of a large employer. The risks of COVID- 19 vary from employee to employee," he said.

In the letter, Slatery talked about how the virus "is commonplace in American life" and said it is not a hazard specific to the workplace.

"Decades ago, when OSHA regularly issued emergency temporary standards, each ETS [Emergency Temporary Standard] dealt with workplace exposure to asbestos, vinyl chloride, benzene, pesticides, vinyl cyanide, or similar hazards, where the exposure levels far exceeded those in everyday life," Slatery wrote. "OSHA is better suited to addressing issues specific to the workplace. COVID-19, except in laboratories working with the virus, does not fit the bill."

He claimed the proposed ETS risks undermining the federalist structure of our joint government.

"States possess broad police powers that the Federal Government lacks. Historically, States and local governments have been the primary guardians and regulators of their citizens' health, safety, and well-being. COVID-19 affects States differently at different times," he wrote.

Slatery encouraged the White House and OSHA to keep constitutional rights in mind when writing the ETS, mentioning that they have heard from Tennesseans with concerns.

He ended his letter saying everyone eligible should get vaccinated, in consultation with their doctor.

"Ultimately, however, public health decisions are best left in the hands of States, communities, businesses, and free citizens," Slatery said.