Recently, I wrote about the multiple class action lawsuits that were filed against various federal government agencies over the vaccine mandate issued by the current administration. It’s clear that the legal landscape will continue to heat up with different lawsuits – this time with government contractor lawsuits filed over the same subject.
On October 29, the legal battles branched out to include seven states (and various agencies within those states). A federal lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Georgia against multiple federal agencies and their leadership (and by multiple, I mean a page and a half of names and organizations) asking for declaratory and injunctive relief against the federal government in stopping the vaccine mandate. Within each state lies multiple federal government contracts, to include public health, agriculture and university research.
Executive Order 14042
The original mandate, Executive Order 14042, directed executive agencies to include all federal contracts and “contract like instruments” in the language that was to be developed by the Safer Federal Workforce, who published guidance specifically for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors. Executive Order 14042 also further required the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Shalanda Young, to publish a determination in the Federal Register as to “whether such Guidance will promote economy and efficiency in Federal contracting if adhered to by Government contractors and subcontractors”. Of no surprise, she did.
Safer Federal Workforce guidance
The Safer Federal Workforce guidance includes language, which seemingly casts a wide net over who the mandate applies to. A contractor employee is defined as:
“any full-time or part-time employee of a covered contractor working on or in connection with a covered contract or working at a covered contractor workplace. This includes employees of covered contractors who are not themselves working on or in connection with a covered contract.”
This language when introduced to the State of Georgia and their Board of Regents of the University System caused the perfect storm of contention. Georgia contains four research universities, to include the juggernaut Georgia Tech, which received $664 million revenue from federal contracts in FY21 alone. Interestingly, Georgia and Idaho (referred to as State Board of Education) were the only state in which their Board of Regents specifically joined in as a plaintiff in the matter.
Supreme Court Bound?
As far as the cause of action and relief requested, the complaint was very similar to the federal employee lawsuits previously discussed. As you might imagine, the Tenth Amendment (state rights) and violation of the Administrative Procedures Act are both foundations of the suit. The request for injunctive relief and a declaratory judgment making the mandate and guidance null and void is almost identical to the lawsuits filed by federal employees. Since this is a lawsuit joined by multiple states, there will be interest to see if this gets fast tracked to the Supreme Court for a ruling before punitive enforcement on the mandate is applied.