The Bulletin Board

State joins lawsuit over vaccine mandate for federal workers

By: - October 29, 2021 4:41 pm
Governor Sununu at a podium

Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement he supported the attorney general joining the lawsuit. (Courtesy)

Attorney General John Formella made it official Friday: New Hampshire has joined nine other states in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal workers and contractors.

​“The state has made clear that the available COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and that every eligible person in New Hampshire is encouraged to get a COVID-19 vaccine,” Formella said in a statement. “That said, the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine do not justify violating the law. This lawsuit is being filed to protect the State of New Hampshire from the federal government’s attempt to impose illegal mandates.”

Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement he supported Formella joining the lawsuit. “I have been clear about the importance of the COVID vaccines, as they are safe, effective, and the most valuable tool we have to protect ourselves, our family, and our community,” he said. “But as the head of state government, I recognize the responsibility in knowing the limitations of government. What an individual chooses to do is between themselves, their family, and their doctor – not the government, which is why I fully support the attorney general’s decision to sign on to this lawsuit.”

House Speaker Sherman Packard, a Londonderry Republican, and Majority Leader Jason Osborne, an Auburn Republican, also issued statements of support.

“Joining this lawsuit was the correct call,” Packard said. “The state of New Hampshire is doing the right thing by standing up to illegal mandates, particularly one that has such devastating effects – loss of income, loss of medical privacy, and an increasing number of unemployment casualties.”

Osborne said: “House Republicans have stood unapologetically against all mandates being forced upon private businesses and our citizens by the Biden administration. History has shown that coercion and intimidation tactics are no way to achieve a desired outcome.”

Formella was one of nearly two dozen attorneys general to threaten the lawsuit in September. 

President Joe Biden announced the mandate for federal contractors, people working in health care settings, and employers with 100 or more people last month. Federal workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22, and federal contractors have until Dec. 8; there is a testing opt-out only for private employers. 

Asked if he would also file a legal challenge to the private employer vaccine mandate, Formella said: “That rule has not yet issued. When and if it does, the state anticipates joining an effort to challenge it.”

The lawsuit challenges the president’s authority to impose the mandates and argues federal officials will have the option of denying requests for religious or medical exemptions if they determine they are not legitimate. 

Federal workers are estimated to make up one-fifth of the country’s workforce. Many are critical to the supply chain, the lawsuit said. If they quit rather than be vaccinated, their absence will further exacerbate supply chain issues, the lawsuit said. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications. Email: [email protected]