COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced Wednesday that they have suspended all activities related to requiring employers with 100 or more employees to require vaccination or COVID-19 testing.
This comes just five days after three major Missouri employers, Missouri Farm Bureau, MFA Oil, and Doyle Equipment Manufacturing, filed suit claiming that OSHA exceeded its statutory authority in implementing the mandate and violated the U.S. Constitution and other laws.
President of Missouri Farm Bureau, Garrett Hawkins, says they are taking this stance to represent the voices of their employees.
"I continue to hear from individual employees who are concerned about the federal government reaching into the workplace and infringing on their personal medical decision that they should be making in consultation with their physician," Hawkins said.
Hawkins said labor shortages are also another major factor in the decision.
"As an employer who has a workforce that spans the entire state of Missouri, we are very concerned about the impact on labor, particularly at a time when we continue to see supply chain disruptions and vacancies all across the economy," Hawkins said.
Jon Ihler, MFA Oil President and CEO, said since the pandemic began, the company has taken extra measure to protect employees, customers, and the community, but there are some concerns.
“We have always followed OSHA guidelines, but we are concerned that the vaccine mandate will impose burdensome new requirements on our business," Ihler said. "We support vaccination, but we also oppose any rule that restricts the freedom of our employees to make their own personal health decisions.”
Catherine Doyle with Doyle Equipment Manufacturing agrees with both companies saying, "We have an incredible workforce at Doyle and fear that it will become severely depleted if this mandate goes into effect.”
Missouri Attorney General, Eric Schmitt said Wednesday that the suspension is a huge victory for the people of Missouri and businesses across the country, and an important step to completely halting these vaccine mandates, but Schmitt says there is more work to be done.
Schmitt's lawsuit was filed at the beginning of November and also challenges the private employer vaccine mandate.
"Our case has moved to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and we’re optimistic that we will prevail in completely halting this vaccine mandate once and for all," Schmitt said.
A Department of Labor spokesperson, Rhonda Burke, said in a statement to ABC 17 News, "While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS (emergency temporary standard) pending future developments in the litigation."
Moving forward, Hawkins says they will be watching the legal process play out, but it may come down to the fact that the company is subject to the mandate.
"If it were allowed to stand we still have to take steps to figure out how will we comply with this tremendous regulatory burden. We have that responsibility," Hawkins said. "At the same time, we can continue to advocate for our employees and their personal health decisions."
The ruling by the court ordered that OSHA can take no steps in the action until further court order.