Louisiana business owner challenges Biden vaccination mandate in court

By William Patrick | The Center Square

Louisiana businessman Brandon Trosclair is suing the Biden administration over its COVID-19 vaccination mandate aimed at private businesses with 100 or more employees.

Trosclair, an Ascension Parish resident, employs nearly 500 people across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi. Under the mandate, he will be forced to fire unvaccinated workers who do not comply with strict federal rules.

The policy also imposes nearly $14,000 in fines per employee if businesses are caught letting their workers skirt the mandate. “Willful violations” could result in fines up to $136,000.

“Over the past 20 months, my employees have showed up to work and served their communities in the face of COVID and hurricanes. Now I’m being told by the government to insert myself into their private health decisions? That’s wrong and I won’t stand for it,” Trosclair said in a statement.

With assistance from the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest law firm, and the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, Trosclair filed a federal lawsuit Friday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry also filed a lawsuit Friday challenging the employer vaccination mandate with four other attorneys general.

Trosclair’s lawsuit argues the mandate is “illegal, divisive and un-American.”

Specifically, the challenge centers on the administration’s newly announced emergency temporary standard rule authorizing the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce the policy.

“Any attempt by the Biden Administration to empower the Department of Labor to regulate private health decisions made outside of work is well beyond its mission,” a Liberty Justice Center statement said.

“Congress authorized OSHA to enact rules necessary to keep workers safe from hazards they may find in the workplace, not any hazard that a worker could encounter anywhere in the world, such as a virus,” said Sarah Harbison, general counsel for the Pelican Institute.

According to an interim rule filed with the Federal Register, businesses must require employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or impose mandatory mask rules and weekly COVID-19 tests for all unvaccinated employees.

The rule also requires private employers to keep records on workers’ vaccination statuses and comply with OSHA spot-checks. The interim rule said the agency will rely largely on complaints to initiate enforcement activities.

President Joe Biden announced the private employer mandate in September. The OSHA rule implementing the policy was announced Thursday.

“While I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” Biden said.

Six employees who work remotely from Texas also are suing with Trosclair, as they stand to lose their jobs once the mandate takes effect.

Trosclair referred to a shortage of full-time workers already affecting his business and claimed the new OSHA rule will make the shortage worse.

“It is not the government’s place to tell me how to operate my stores or to force me to interfere in the private medical decisions of my employees,” he said.

The OSHA rule is estimated to affect 84 million workers nationwide and will have far-reaching economic consequences, Harbison said.

“Not only is this mandate a blatant overreach by the federal government, it also has a real impact on Americans who are looking for work and business owners who are struggling to keep their doors open,” she said.

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