CASPER — Wyoming took another step in fighting back against federal vaccine mandates Saturday, this time in the court battle over worker requirements at larger businesses.
Wyoming joined 26 other states in asking the Supreme Court to halt implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) mandate that requires workers at businesses with 100 or more employees to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing and mandatory masking.
Wyoming’s participation comes as no surprise. Fighting back against the mandate was the basis for holding a special legislative session earlier this year, and Gov. Mark Gordon has been outspokenly against the rule.
In November, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals put a halt on the worker vaccine mandate while the courts considered the matter. Then on Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals removed the stay, clearing the way for the mandate to go into effect next month. The following day, a group of 27 states asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the national stay.
“While we are disappointed with the decision of the 6th Circuit’s panel, we immediately requested that the Supreme Court halt this mandate and hear this case,” Gordon said. “This overreaching rule exceeds OSHA’s authority and threatens the rights of Wyoming citizens and her industries.”
The Sixth Circuit disagreed. The rule “is an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our healthcare system to its knees, forced businesses to shut down for months on end, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs,” wrote Judge Jane Stranch, a nominee of former President Barack Obama.
She was joined by Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, a nominee of President George W. Bush.
Critics of the directive say OSHA is not authorized to make the emergency rule, partly because the coronavirus is a general health risk and not exclusive to the workplace.
If the mandate moves ahead, it is set to go into effect Jan. 4 and is estimated to cover 84 million people. OSHA has announced it will not issue citations for violating the rule until Jan. 10.
At the time the Wyoming Legislature held its special session, the mandate’s rules and regulations had not yet been released, making it difficult to legislate against.
Ultimately, the session ended with a bill that does little more than allocate $4 million towards fighting the mandate in court.
Wyoming and a litany of other states are also fighting mandates pertaining to federal contractors, certain National Guardsmen and health workers in facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid funding.
Some of these challenges have been successful so far, leading to pauses in certain parts of the nation.