Local attorney says Biden has the law on his side with new vaccine mandates

ATLANTA — After President Joe Biden laid out his new COVID-19 vaccine mandate Thursday afternoon, Channel 2 Action News spoke with a labor attorney who said the president has the authority to make the mandate stick.

Atlanta attorney Ed Buckly told Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston that by the president using OSHA, the federal agency whose sole purpose is to keep workers and the workplace safe, he may be able to mandate vaccines in every American business.

Buckly was president of the Georgia chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association and former chair of the Atlanta Bar Association labor and employment section.

He said Biden’s vaccine mandate could happen.

“I do think he has that authority,” Buckley said. “Because OSHA can dictate workplace safety and so because of that, he does have that authority. Of course the agency has to issue a rule and that’s going to take a little bit of time.”

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Businesses with more than 100 employees are already wondering what impact a vaccine mandate would have on finding and keeping workers.

“Well staffing has already been a challenge for a year and a half, so we definitely don’t want anything to happened that would prevent people from wanting to apply and come to work here,” said Elizabeth Tully, vice president of human resources at Epi Breads.

Tully’s company employs 250 bakers, packing and maintenance teams.

She told Huddleston that more than half of her staff is vaccinated but she’s looking to hire 180 more people. With a $15 million warehouse expansion in the works, she’s concerned a vaccine mandate would stop people from applying.

“I don’t want anyone put off. I would like them to come and ask and interview for a job talk about our protocols,” Tully said.

Buckley said he suspects many states including Georgia will file court challenges saying the president is stepping on state’s rights.

But he said Biden could prevail by saying public health is an overriding concern.

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