Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor has urged private employers to “disregard” the Biden Administration’s plans to impose a federal vaccine mandate requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated.
President Joe Biden in September announced plans to impose COVID-19 mandates on private employers with more than 100 workers, requiring them to be vaccinated or get a negative test result on a weekly basis before coming to work. Around 80 million Americans in private sector businesses with over 100 employees would be affected if the mandate ever goes into force.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency under the Department of Labor, on Oct. 12 submitted the initial text of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers to the Office of Management and Budget for review—the first concrete step the administration has taken since Biden’s announcement in September.
But in a statement issued on Thursday, O’Connor said employers are facing mounting pressure from the Biden administration to act on vaccine mandates and urged them not to do so.
The Oklahoma attorney general said he’s ready to take Biden to court the second the rules are made public.
“There are currently no rules that require employers to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for employees,” O’Connor wrote. “I urge Oklahoma employers to disregard the Biden administration’s wishes to the contrary. In the event federal emergency rules are issued that place such an unlawful demand upon employers, our office will be joined by other state Attorneys General across the country to quickly sue and seek an injunction against any implementation or enforcement.”
He continued, “Oklahomans should have the right to make their own personal health decisions for themselves and their families. Employers that are mandating vaccines are unfortunately doing so upon their own initiative. Religious, medical, and personal exemptions should be uniformly approved by those employers at the very least.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt—who has been vaccinated—also took aim at Biden’s mandate on Thursday, saying he does not “believe it’s the government’s job to dictate policies to private companies.”
“This action is not just federal overreach; it’s unconstitutional,” Stitt, a Republican, said in a video statement. “President Biden’s administration has no respect for individual freedoms. I cannot believe we have a president who wants to force Americans to choose between a vaccine and their job.
“The people this is affecting aren’t just statistics. They’re real Oklahomans with real concerns. They’re brave nurses and caretakers. They’re expecting mothers and fathers. They’re first responders and brave law enforcement.”
He added that getting vaccinated is a “personal choice” and noted that he himself had chosen to be vaccinated after speaking with his doctor and doing “what’s best for me.”
Stitt said that over 71 percent of Oklahomans aged 18 and over have chosen to get the vaccine, while 93 percent of Oklahomans 65 and older have also been vaccinated.
“We know the COVID vaccine is our best defense against severe illness. But static, one-size-fits all mandates simply do not fit the reality we are in today,” he added.
At a press conference on Thursday, Biden championed employee vaccine mandates for helping lower the number of COVID-19 cases.
“Every day, we see more businesses implement vaccination requirements and the mounting data shows that they work,” Biden said. “Businesses and organizations are implementing requirements are seeing their vaccination rates rise by an average of 20 percent or more to well over 90 percent the number of employees vaccinated.”
However, the mandate has drawn significant pushback, with state-level officials in over half the states promising to fight it, while others have expressed concerns it could lead to a shortage of workers across all industries as employees either quit or lose their jobs for failing to get vaccinated.
Separately, the Biden administration in September mandated that all federal executive branch workers must be vaccinated, including employees of contractors that do business with the federal government. There is no option for weekly PCR tests and a deadline of Dec. 8 was set for employees to be vaccinated.