Attorney General Todd Rokita confirmed Thursday that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate will apply to Indiana state and local government employees, including teachers, unless lawsuits against it prove successful.
Biden announced in September that he would be requiring vaccination mandates for employers with more than 100 employees. On Thursday his administration released details on the requirement.
The mandate will apply to state and local governments in Indiana too, because Indiana has its own federally approved occupational safety and health regulatory program. States with their own plans must adopt requirements that are at least as effective as federal OSHA requirements.
Workers will have until Jan. 4, 2022, to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. That gives states such as Indiana time to pursue legal action in the courts in an attempt to overturn or suspend the mandates temporarily.
More:Attorney General Todd Rokita to file three lawsuits over federal vaccine mandate
On Thursday, Gov. Eric Holcomb directed the Indiana Department of Labor to work with Rokita on a lawsuit over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large employers.
“I direct the Indiana Department of Labor to work with the Attorney General on a lawsuit challenging the federal government,” Holcomb said. “This is an overreach of the government’s role in serving and protecting Hoosiers. While I agree that the vaccine is the tool that will best protect against COVID-19, this federal government approach is unprecedented and will bring about harmful, unintended consequences in the supply chain and the workforce.”
Holcomb did not address whether he would direct the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce the mandate.
Erin Murphy, a spokeswoman for Holcomb, directed IndyStar’s follow up questions to IOSHA. A spokeswoman for IOSHA said the Holcomb administration had no comment beyond the governor’s statement.
Indiana lawmakers passed a bill in April prohibiting state and local units of governments from requiring “vaccination passports,” or requiring employees to prove they have received the COVID-19 vaccine. But the federal rules override state law.
That puts local governments in a peculiar position for the time being.
In a statement, a spokesman for Mayor Joe Hogsett said Indianapolis stands ready to comply with a mandate for its employees if the state brings its plan into line with the new federal requirement as currently required.
“As things currently stand, however, the new federal rule does not immediately, without further action by the state, apply to the City-County as a public-sector employer,” the spokesman Mark Bode said in an email. “Moreover, we are forbidden by current state law from imposing a vaccine mandate on City-County employees. It is now up to the State to determine the next steps.”
As the city awaits word on which regulations to comply with, it urges all residents to get the vaccine, Bode said.
The federal government is also mandating vaccines for those who work for federal contractors and those who work at healthcare facilities that treat Medicare and Medicaid patients.
Rokita announced Thursday that he is filing lawsuits against all three mandates.
IndyStar reporter Binghui Huang contributed to this story.
Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270. Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.