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Tulsa lawyer weighs in on legality of vaccine mandate

Gov. Kevin Stitt and President Joe Biden
Posted at 9:48 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 23:14:26-04

TULSA, Okla. — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt spoke out again Thursday, condemning President Joe Biden’s plan for a vaccine mandate of large U.S. companies.

“This action is not just federal overreach, it’s unconstitutional,” Stitt said.

In a week’s time, the president plans to end the debate over public health and personal choice. On Thursday, Biden teased the issue of an emergency rule by the Labor Department to require vaccines for businesses with more than 100 employees.

“We have critical work to do, but we can’t let up now,” Biden said.

“Oklahomans are faced with an impossible choice,” Stitt said. “Get the vaccine or lose your job.”

Tim Gilpin, a Tulsa attorney with practice in constitutional law, said there is precedent for the federal government and state agencies requiring vaccinations.

“Vaccines and the ability to mandate, in the American experience, has lasted for decades if not almost a century,” Gilpin said. “In all likelihood, the president does have this authority.”

Gilpin said federal employees and government contractors must op into the vaccine to secure their jobs, but the latest anticipated move by Biden does not fall under the same umbrella.

Gilpin said, according to federal regulation, private companies with more than 100 employees are considered large enough to “affect interstate commerce” and therefore must follow federal health protocol.

“That’s where you would talk about the federal government coming in, in a regulatory form in this instance in a public health emergency, a deadly pandemic, and saying that vaccines have to be mandated," he said.

Those Oklahoma employees are calling Gilpin seeking consultation, but since Oklahoma is an “employment-at-will” state, he said those workers likely cannot dodge the vaccine and still keep their jobs.

“If you’re an employee in Oklahoma, and you’re not under a union agreement or anything like that, you’re likely going to have to take that vaccine.”

Stitt said Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor plans to challenge the vaccine requirement rules once they are published by the Labor Department.

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