Lawsuits opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates have surpassed the 1,000-complaint mark. The vast majority of these cases (75 percent) have been filed against employers. August 2022 brought the highest number of new complaints challenging employer COVID-19 vaccination requirements since the wave of vaccine mandate litigation began.
When legal challenges to COVID-19 vaccine mandates began to rise sharply in the fall of 2021, cases were directed mostly at Biden Administration executive orders and agency directives, as well as vaccination requirements imposed upon certain industries by state and local governments. However, the bulk of filings since have mostly targeted employers, public and private, that have adopted policies requiring their employees to get vaccinated. These cases have been filed at a steady clip in 2022 and saw a sharp uptick this summer.
The jump in filings may be attributed in part to the dismissals that the EEOC and state agencies are beginning to issue on some of the thousands of charges that have been filed. The updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the changing attitude toward the vaccines and COVID-19 also may be having an impact.
It is certainly a different world than it was just a year ago when President Joe Biden announced his Path Out of the Pandemic plan, which attempted to place the burden of getting the country vaccinated on employers. While legal challenges have had some success against some of the sweeping federal vaccine efforts, individual employers continue to have success on some of the claims made. Nevertheless, litigation is taking its toll and many claims remain pending. Employer vaccine mandates were much more prevalent last fall and winter. With worker shortages, changing attitudes toward COVID-19, updated CDC guidance and the litigation risks, many employers who are not required to have vaccine mandates have decided to move forward without them.