Covid-19 Vaccine-Mandate Fight Between Texas and Biden Has Companies Caught in the Middle

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Some large Texas employers, including Southwest Airlines and American Airlines, say they will not comply with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order except as mandated by businesses.

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Texas is one of several Republican-led states with top officials who are opposing federal vaccine mandates. The possibility that the federal mandate may apply in some parts of the country and not others is expected to complicate business decisions about vaccine regulations, especially for companies operating in multiple states.

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“Like most businesses, employers want to minimize uncertainty, and that’s certainly not helping,” said Todd Logsdon, a labor law expert at the law firm Fisher Phillips.

Some large Texas-based employers, such as Southwest Airlines Co.

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and American Airlines Group Inc. have said they will not comply with Mr Abbott’s orders. The airlines, which are federal contractors, said they must comply with the Biden administration’s order.

The Greater Houston Partnership, which represents some 900 companies including Exxon Mobil Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Chevron Corp. and Accenture Plc, said Tuesday that Mr. Abbott’s order would allow Texas businesses to operate safely and will be difficult. The organization has generally been supportive of Mr Biden’s efforts to require vaccines for large employers.

The partnership’s chief executive, Bob Harvey, said most of the major businesses he represented supported a federal mandate because it would support businesses to implement workplace safety measures and eliminate competition between businesses in their vaccine requirements. will do it. He said the business owners who protested this were mostly rural workforces, who feared they would lose employees if they needed to be vaccinated.

Businesses, especially smaller ones, have raised questions about federal mandates, including who will bear the cost of virus testing and how the standard’s employee limits apply to businesses that jointly employ workers, such as franchises. Brands and their Franchisees.

Half Price Books, a Dallas-based chain that has access to more than 120 bookstores nationwide, said keeping up with conflicting vaccine rules is a challenge. Chief Strategy Officer Cathy Doyle Thomas said, “Like every other company, we’re waiting for more information, but when things are so different and changing so quickly, it’s very difficult for any company to keep up. It is possible.”

The federal mandate would apply to all employers with 100 or more employees. Businesses that do not comply may face fines of up to $14,000 per violation. All told, according to the administration, the mandate will cover about 100 million workers, which is about two-thirds of all workers in the US.

The Labor Department did not respond to requests for comment. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the administration is “waiting for OSHA regulations to take the next step.”

Ms. Saki said, “We intend to implement these requirements, and continue to work to implement these requirements across the country, including in states where attempts have been made to oppose them. “

Legal experts say they expect Mr Abbott’s order to be challenged by businesses.

“Generally, the default rule is that an employer can impose a mandate on its employees,” said Jason Bent, a law professor at Stetson University in Florida.

In June, a federal court ruled that Houston Methodist, a large hospital system, could require its employees to vaccinate, throwing off a lawsuit brought by a group of employees who didn’t want to get the vaccine. The hospital system said on Tuesday it was reviewing Mr. Abbott’s order.

Houston Methodist CEO Mark Boom said he was grateful for the hospital’s mandated vaccines to now know that all of its staff were vaccinated, but he worries about other Texas hospitals that are not yet fully compliant. It is possible. “As healthcare workers, we have taken a sacred oath of ‘doing no harm’,” Dr Boom said. “Part of that pledge is to do everything possible to stop the spread of the disease.”

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the governor said Mr. Abbott has spoken to “countless Texans who are concerned about losing their jobs because of this federal redundancy.”

The move comes after two challengers criticized the ability of businesses to require COVID-19 vaccines in next year’s Republican gubernatorial primary.

Monday’s order was a change for Mr Abbott, who had previously said private businesses should set their own employee requirements. The executive order’s announcement also asked the Texas Legislature to pass a similar bill during its current special session, which expires next week. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, said he would move quickly to do so.

The Texas order is one of several attempts by Republican-led states to challenge the Biden administration’s efforts to require COVID-19 vaccines. Arizona has sued to block the rule. That state, along with 23 other states, along with the Republican state attorney general, sent Biden a letter in September saying they would “explore every available legal option” if the administration does not drop the plan.

Earlier this year, Montana enacted a law making it illegal to make vaccination a state of employment. Montana’s law included exemptions for nursing homes and other assisted living facilities. The Texas order does not include any such exemptions.

write to David Harrison at [email protected] and Elizabeth Findell at [email protected]

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