When Brandon Trosclair decided to challenge President Joe Biden’s employee COVID-19 vaccination mandate in court, he didn’t know the effort temporarily would block the policy nationwide.
The case also could lead to a permanent injunction this week, stopping the mandate from reaching private businesses with 100 or more employees – affecting an estimated 84 million workers – and likely setting up a U.S. Supreme Court fight.
“Maybe I’m a little bit naive, but I thought I’d be one of thousands of lawsuits,” Trosclair said in Monday phone interview with The Center Square. “I just thought it was a no-brainer to get involved and do this because it’s the right thing to do.”
Trosclair resides in Ascension Parish and employs nearly 500 people across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi. Represented by attorneys from the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy and the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest law firm, he and six workers from Texas filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration.
The lawsuit challenged an “emergency temporary standard” authorizing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to enforce mandatory vaccinations or weekly testing regimes for unvaccinated private sector workers. The standard includes a Jan. 4 deadline for vaccinations and fines of nearly $14,000 per employee for noncompliance.
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Trosclair on Saturday, halting the mandate for “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”
Trosclair said he was excited for his employees and American workers after the ruling. The appeals court “validated what we already thought,” he said.
“At first we were unsure if we were going to fall within the parameters of the mandate being that it applies to 100 different employees and we have 15 different entities. When I found out that we would be held to the mandate, to me it was a fairly obvious thing to get involved because the government was putting me in a position to terminate employees for not taking the vaccine or do multiple testings every week,” he said, adding that the tests would be costly.
Sarah Harbison, general counsel for the Pelican Institute, said in an interview the private employer mandate is “a naked attempt to push policy objectives through the administrative procedure and bypass Congress.”
Harbison explained the Fifth Circuit stopped the policy from going into effect until it could decide whether to lift the temporary stay or issue a permanent injunction.
The appeals court gave the administration until 5 p.m. Monday to respond. Trosclair’s reply to the government’s response is due Tuesday at 5 p.m.
“A final ruling could come as early as Wednesday,” Harbison said.
Biden announced the employer vaccination mandate in September. The OSHA standard 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.
Republican-led states and attorneys general filed multiple lawsuits Friday challenging the mandate’s legality.
An 11-state coalition sued in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seven states sued in the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and three states sued in the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Fifth Circuit in New Orleans was the first court to issue a ruling, which combined Trosclair case with multiple petitioners, including the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
Trosclair said wasn’t expecting the wave of ensuing public attention. He said he will rely on his faith no matter what happens.
He also said there’s “strength in numbers.”
“We the people still have the power in this country. We should unite together not only to fight this illegal mandate but any federal overreach,” he said.
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