COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said Ohio will join a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government over an upcoming requirement that employees of federal government contractors become vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested weekly for the virus. 

What You Need To Know

  • Workers of federal contractors and companies with 100+ employees will be required to be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19

  • The federal government will begin enforcing the COVID-19 protocols on Jan. 4

  • Ohio AG Dave Yost is filing a lawsuit against the Biden administration for imposing the rule on government contractors

  • While the Biden administration says the OSHA rules are constitutional, Yost says the rules overstep Biden’s authority as president

Earlier on Thursday, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced coronavirus-related protocols for employees of private companies with 100 or more workers.

Rules for employees of federal contractors were added to the protocols, and those rules include determining the vaccination status of each employee, requiring those who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 to be tested for the virus weekly and wear a mask while indoors. OSHA will also require employees to provide prompt notice if they test positive for COVID-19. 

Before Thursday, the federal government was going to implement the COVID-19 protocols for federal government contractors in December. The updated guidance from OSHA means that the rules for federal contractors in addition to those for employees of private companies with more than 100 workers are aligned, although many large companies also do business with the federal government. 

In a statement, Yost claimed that the vaccine mandate for federal contractors would cause Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to go free. According to ICE, five Ohio jails also serve as detention facilities for immigration enforcement.

“We have sheriffs that are going to lose a lot of talented deputies to this mandate, and they’ll ultimately give up their contracts to house ICE detainees rather than see that happen,” Yost said. “Forcing that kind of choice on people who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe creates a needless situation in which everyone loses.”

Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and Sheriff Scott A. Hildenbrand, Seneca County Sheriff Fredrick W. Stevens and the attorneys general of Kentucky and Tennessee are also plaintiffs in the suit. 

“I’ve said it many times: The Biden administration may not do whatever it wants however it wants,” Yost added. “The Constitution lays out critical rules by which the executive branch must operate. Congress and the states have their own powers, which the administration can’t just take over because it wants to.”

The Biden administration has defended vaccine mandates as both constitutional and good for the economy. 

“As we’ve seen with businesses – large and small – across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated,” Biden said in a statement Thursday morning. “There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements. Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”

The federal government’s COVID-19 protocols drew opposition on Thursday from the leader of Ohio’s business community.

“Today’s announcement from the Biden Administration is a significant infringement on the ability of Ohio employers to set their own workplace policies,” said Steve Stivers, Ohio Chamber president and CEO. “Ohio businesses know best how to protect the health and safety of their employees, customers and patients and should not be subject to the heavy hand of government dictating a one-size-fits-all approach to COVID-19 vaccines and testing.”

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has expressed opposition to legislative efforts prohibiting employers from requiring vaccines, but also is against the Biden administration's edict. 

"I stated my position right after they were announced," DeWine said. "My position has not changed. My position is that employers should not be told by government to vaccinate, or require vaccinations, nor should they be told that they cannot require vaccinations. So I oppose the legislation that — some of it is pending in the state legislature — but I also think what the president has done is a mistake as well.”