By Tom Ozimek
A coalition of Oregon police officers and firefighters have sued Gov. Kate Brown over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees.
The plaintiffs—including the Oregon Fraternal Order of Police and the Kingsley Firefighters Association—argued in a lawsuit filed Friday in a Jefferson County court (pdf) that Brown’s executive order violates a number of laws and want it blocked.
“Plaintiffs seek an order declaring EO No. 21-29 is unenforceable because it conflicts with Oregon statutes, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of the Plaintiffs, conflicts with the Oregon Constitution’s guarantee of free expression, and conflicts with the United States Constitution guarantee of equal protection, free exercise, and due process,” the complaint states.
Brown issued an executive order (pdf) on Aug. 13 that imposed a mandatory vaccine requirement on all executive branch employees. In the order, Brown said that, to date, around 70 percent of the state’s executive branch employees had taken the vaccine voluntarily, prompted in part by state efforts like organizing onsite vaccine clinics and financial incentives.
Citing the rise in COVID-19 infections and noting that both private and public employers across the United States have imposed mandates, Brown said it was time for tougher measures in Oregon.
“With the Delta variant raging in Oregon, with the state’s ability to fully return to in-person work continuing to be hampered by the risks from COVID-19, having implemented a series of incentives aimed at achieving voluntary compliance, and with full FDA approval of the COVID-19 vaccine expected within weeks, the time has come for any remaining state employees and those who work alongside them in state government to get vaccinated,” she wrote in the order.
Ten days after Brown’s order, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave full regulatory approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
The order gives Oregon state workers until Oct. 18 to provide proof of vaccination or face consequences that could include dismissal.
The plaintiffs argued in the complaint that enforcement of the order would result in wrongful termination, and they have asked the court to declare it unlawful and block its enforcement.
“The individual plaintiffs are Executive Branch employees … who want to exercise control over their own medical treatment and are being forced to choose between their rights privileges and liberties as citizens on the one hand and their employment, careers, and financial futures on the other,” the complaint states.
The Epoch Times has reached out to the governor’s office for comment on the suit.
Brown’s spokesperson Liz Merah defended the executive order in a statement to The Associated Press.
“Given the seriousness of the situation, employer vaccine requirements have become an important tool, and state government plays a part. It’s critical to protect state workers, workplaces, and facilities, as well as members of the public who use state services,” she told the outlet.
The lawsuit comes as Oregon has faced a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in recent weeks, with a seven-day average of 2,222 daily cases on Sept. 2, compared to fewer than 500 in mid-July, according to state health authorities.