Alabama has argued in a lawsuit challenging federal vaccine requirements that many university and state agency employees would quit their jobs if they were to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Alabama has joined a coalition of other states in a lawsuit filed Friday night challenging the vaccine mandate on federal contractors. The lawsuit is part of Republicans-led efforts to oppose federal demands. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall also this week urged businesses, universities and government agencies to review employee requests for medical and religious exemptions. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey ordered state agencies to cooperate with the state’s lawsuit.
“From the moment the White House tried to force this vaccine on Americans, I said that Alabama strongly opposes it and the way to stop this is to go to court,” he said. Ivey said in a statement this weekend.
In the lawsuit filed Friday night, the state argued that many employees at universities and the Alabama Department of Public Health would quit rather than get vaccinated. Auburn University and the University of Alabama have both said employees must get their shots by Nov. 8 because the campuses are all federal contractors.
“Many employees at public universities in Alabama are unvaccinated and would likely quit their jobs rather than receive the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment,” the lawsuit said.
Marshall issued a notice this week calling on Alabama-based employers, including employers at public universities, to liberally interpret “in favor of the employee” any requests for medical and religious exemptions by employees from the vaccination mandate. .
Marshall wrote in the note that “many public universities in Alabama and some state agencies have been made aware that they are subject to the vaccination mandate of federal contractors.” The memo was co-signed by the Director of the Department of State Personnel, Jackie Graham, and legislative leaders.
When an employee requests a religious exemption, Marshall said state agencies should not “investigate the validity of an employee’s religious beliefs, including the grounds or reasons for the belief.”
Twelve vaccination-related bills have been introduced in the ongoing special session on redistribution, but key lawmakers have said they do not expect to debate the proposals until the winter regular session.
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon said Republicans wanted to fight the mandate, but suggested it would be counterproductive to pass legislation that could not impact federal law. The supremacy clause of the US Constitution clearly states that federal law prevails over any conflicting state law.
“The last thing we want to do is have a gut reaction to something that might sound good politically, but in essence what does it do. You have not done justice to the people by doing it this way, ”said McCutcheon.
Companies with federal contracts could be placed in an awkward position if they are pulled between conflicting state and federal mandates. Some current mandates – such as a hospital requiring doctors to get flu shots every year – could be affected by the bills.
Republican Senator Arthur Orr of Decatur said there would be ongoing discussions about how to craft legislation that could help the state litigation. Orr has introduced several bills aimed at preventing employers and businesses from discriminating “on the basis of vaccination status.” He said he was hearing more and more stories of people facing the loss of their jobs because they were not vaccinated.
“It’s tragic,” Orr said.
“It is very important that we can make a personal choice whether or not we want to get vaccinated,” said Republican Rep. Ritchie Whorton of Owens Cross Roads.