With a looming deadline of Nov. 22, 2021, thousands of federal employees and contractors continue to push back against the Biden administration’s sweeping COVID vaccine mandates. According to The Washington Post, tens of thousands of federal employees remain unvaccinated pending word on whether religious or medical exemptions will be approved.
Federal employees who fail to comply by Nov. 22, including those who are teleworking, “are in violation of a lawful order” and are “subject to discipline, up to and including termination or removal.”1
Grassroots Organizations Lead Charge in Pursuing Legal Action Against Federal COVID Vaccine Mandate
Two large grassroots organizations headed by and comprised of federal employees are leading the charge in legal efforts challenging the federal government’s action to mandate COVID vaccine in the workplace. The organization Federal Employees for Freedom (FEFF) is preparing to pursue litigation against the federal government on behalf of thousands of federal employees by filing a lawsuit through the Health Freedom Defense Fund and Davillier Law Group.
FEFF has several online platforms, including a website and social media groups, which augments communication among employees and provides updates on ongoing lawsuits.
The second organization, Feds for Medical Freedom (F4MF), filed a first lawsuit with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The legal complaint was filed on Oct. 19 on behalf of federal employees from several agencies including the Department of Defense, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security.2
The Department of Homeland Security has more than 20 employees listed in the lawsuit, more than any other federal organization. Feds for Medical Freedom requested the court block Biden’s mandatory COVID vaccination policy from going into effect.3
The lawsuit, which has more than 50 plaintiffs, cites ethical concerns surrounding the mandate, such as the government unlawfully inquiring about an employee’s medical history.2
Plaintiffs also cite studies reporting that both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals can spread COVID-19. As many lawyers, medical professionals and politicians have done, the complaint questions the lack of consideration for those who have natural immunity to the virus, which has been shown to be just as effective if not more effective than vaccine acquired immunity.4
Federal Employees Seek Religious Exemptions to COVID Vaccine Mandates
Thousands of federal employees are seeking religious exemptions and a smaller number are seeking medical exemptions to the government’s COVID vaccine mandate. Despite the upcoming Nov. 22 deadline, employees cannot be summarily fired if they are pending exemption approval or denial. If an exemption is granted, unvaccinated employees must wear a mask, follow social distancing protocols, and be tested regularly.1
Questions remain for both the private and public sector surrounding the legality of denying a religious exemption under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act states that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” for those objecting to a job requirement based upon their faith. A religious belief is defined as a “sincerely held” belief.1
Veterans Administration to Dismiss Unvaccinated Employees who Pose a Risk
Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough stated that while the agency will not “question the legitimacy of an employee’s religious exemption,” the agency can and will dismiss unvaccinated employees who pose a risk to the health of veterans.1
As of Oct. 20, no religious exemptions had been granted for military members despite Pentagon press secretary John Kirby stating earlier this year:
We take freedom of religion and worship seriously, in the military, it’s one of the things that we sign up to defend, and so it’s something that’s done very carefully.5
Class Action Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of All Military Branches Disputing COVID Vaccine Mandates
On Oct. 15, a class action lawsuit6 disputing the federal COVID vaccine mandate was filed. At the same time, a request for a temporary restraining order and injunction7 against President Biden, Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was filed on behalf of members from all five branches of the military, as well federal employees and contractors. The lawsuit states:
Our citizens in uniform may not be stripped of basic rights simply because they doffed their civilian clothes.6
Court Rules Temporary Hold on Mandate for Private Businesses
A federal appeals panel placed a temporary hold on Biden’s Executive Order, which requires businesses with over 100 employees to implement a COVID vaccine mandate. However, this temporary hold applies only to the private sector. The New York Times reports that the court ruling is a sign that the Biden administration may be facing an uphill battle.8 A separate lawsuit was also filed in the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis by 11 states including Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah.
Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas tweeted:
The fight is not over and I will never stop resisting this Admin’s unconstitutional overreach!8
The White House urged businesses to proceed with the mandate despite the court order.9 In October, the Biden administration rejected a district court order that would halt the discipline of military employees who pursue legal action over denied religious exemptions.
Attorney Michael Yoder stated:
The Biden administration has shown an unprecedented cavalier attitude toward the rule of law and an utter ineptitude at basic constitutional contours.10
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Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden administration, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, COVID-19, Davillier Law Group, Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, F4MF, Federal Employees for Freedom, Feds for Medical Freedom, FEFF, Health Freedom Defense Fund, Ken Paxton, Lloyd Austin, Michael Yoder, Mississippi, Natasha Hobley, National Vaccine Information Center, NVIC, South Carolina, St. Louis, Texas, The New York Times, The Vaccine Reaction, The Washington Post, Utah, vaccine mandates