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Local attorneys weigh in on President Biden's vaccine mandates

Civil rights issues have also come into question.

Posted: Sep 10, 2021 7:17 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- There's been some controversy since President Joe Biden announced new vaccine mandates that could affect over 100 million Americans. 

Attorneys in the Eugene area said Biden does in fact have the legal authority to require all employers with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing if they don't get the shot. This mandate would also require all federal workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly. 

RELATED: Biden's six-step COVID plan, explained

The Department of Labor is in charge of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 covers most private sector employers and their workers, as well as some public sector employers and their workers. It states that employers must provide a safe and healthy working environment for their employees, free of hazards that could cause death or harm. 

Andrew Lewinter, a Eugene employment attorney, said Biden and employers are within their right to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine under the OSHA act. 

"If an employee is coming to work and the employer is allowing unvaccinated people to get them sick, then that employer, I think, is failing to provide their workers with a safe and healthy work environment. So it's certainly within OSHA and President Biden's authority to mandate this, " said Lewinter. 

Lewinter also told KEZI 9 News he has already received phone calls from potential clients seeking legal counsel regarding Biden's new mandate. 

Civil rights issues have also come into question with the new mandate. 

Brian Michaels has been a civil rights attorney in Eugene for nearly 20 years. He said civil rights shouldn't be a question when it comes down to the health and safety of everyone. 

"People stop at red lights, they wear seatbelts, they obey no smoking signs. So I don't really understand the civil rights in the context of this world-wide humanities pandemic," said Michaels. 

Michaels also said the COVID-19 pandemic has become a worldwide issue, so civil rights shouldn't even be an issue for people. 

But what if someone wanted to sue their employer on the grounds of the vaccine mandate being illegal? Would they be able to make a case? Lewinter said "no."

"You can't discriminate on a certain basis, you have to pay the minimum wage, and you have to provide employees a safe and healthy work environment. And that legal obligation employers have is enforced by OSHA," said Lewinter. 

There isn't a set date on when companies need to get their employees vaccinated. 

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