‘OSHA has never used this authority to mandate a vaccine’: A legal look at the vaccine mandate

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The new vaccine mandate from President Joe Biden has already pushed some businesses and even governors to threaten lawsuits.

Several businesses in Jacksonville will be impacted, including Black Knight, JEA, the City of Jacksonville and others.

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The mandate requires businesses with more than 100 employees to require the vaccine, get tested for COVID weekly, or pay a fine.

Today many are wondering if that is legal. Gov. DeSantis said in St. Johns County today he would be taking legal action.

“We are going to be working hard in Florida to protect people. Obviously there are things in the courts that will be in, but you can’t just sit there and hope some lawsuit is going to succeed.”

DeSantis has already said he will push for legal action against the new vaccine mandate; but one Florida business attorney says that technically, Biden’s administration does have this power.

“So the Department of Labor, OSHA will release a rule that is pursuant to its emergency temporary standard authority.”

Roger Feicht is an attorney with Gunster Law Firm. He says as long as OSHA can prove there is a threat to the health of employees, they have the right, although the move is unprecedented.

“OSHA has never used this authority to mandate a vaccine of any kind.”

In fact, this power hasn’t been used since 1994. As of right now, the rule has not been enacted.

“The timing is critical here because right now we just have an announcement, so it remains to be seen whether this announcement will encourage more people to be vaccinated, knowing that their employer will ultimately require it,” Feicht said.

Once the rule is released, an appeal has to be filed within 60 days.

“Any person or business could file a petition challenging the authority of OSHA and the Department of Labor.”

Until then, the Biden administration is hoping employers take advantage of the opportunity.

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“A lot of businesses are thinking, ‘Hey, now I don’t have to mandate it and be the bad guy as the business owner, the federal government has told me we have to do this,’” Feicht said.

We reached out to businesses across Jacksonville that would be impacted. JEA says while they require masks and encourage vaccines, they have not had a chance to discuss this new mandate.

The city says they have asked their general counsel and employee services department to review the mandate. Feicht says the city’s obligation is still up in the air.

“We’ll have to wait until we get the final rule from OSHA to determine if that also applies to government entities.”