A group of Oregon police and firefighters became fired up after Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order that could lead to them getting fired if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
The Oregon Fraternal Order of Police, the Kingsley Firefighters Association and a number of individual officers filed a lawsuit Friday in Jefferson County Circuit Court that seeks to void Governor Brown’s August 13 executive order.
Brown said she issued the order because it was time for the state to get tough due to the increasing caseload of Covid-19 patients infected with the delta variant of the virus. The Democrat Governor noted that many private and public employers across the country have imposed similar mandates. The governor’s order gives state Executive Branch employees until October 18 to show proof they’ve been fully vaccinated. They could be fired if they don’t.
The Plaintiff’s attorney, Daniel E. Thenell, claims Brown’s order violates several laws, his chief complaint is that the order conflicts with Oregon statutes and, further, would result in a common law wrongful discharge of his clients.
“[Oregon law] prohibits a worker from being required as a condition of work to be immunized unless authorized by federal or state law, rule or regulation,” Thenell argues in his legal complaint, adding that Oregon’s Legislature hasn’t enacted any law authorizing vaccinations of workers. All plaintiffs are workers under state law, he said.
State common law considers an employee wrongfully discharged if they are fired for performing an important public duty or exercising an employment-related right of important public interest. Thenell claims cops and firefighters have a right to make their own medical decisions, just like any other citizen.
Thenell also objects to requiring police and firefighters, like his clients, to prove vaccination while exempting other executive branch employees such as District Attorneys and certain other workers and volunteers.
“The individual plaintiffs are Executive Branch employees … who want to exercise control over their own medical treatment and are being forced to choose between their rights, privileges and liberties as citizens on the one hand, and their employment, careers and financial futures on the other,” Thenell argued.
The plaintiffs asked the court to rule Brown’s order unlawful and stop it from being enforced because they say:
- The order violates Plaintiffs’ statutory rights under ORS 433.416.
- The order violates Plaintiffs’ rights to free expression under the Oregon Constitution Article I Section 8.
- The order violates Plaintiffs’ rights to free speech under the United States Constitution.
- The order violates the privileges and immunity clause of the Oregon Constitution.
- The order violates the grant of equal protection under the law in the United States Constitution.
- The order deprives Plaintiffs of their employment without due process of law in violation of the United States Constitution.
- The order violates the Oregon Constitution Article I Section 22.
- The order violates the separation of powers in the Oregon Constitution Article III Section 1 and Article IV Section 1.
- The order would result in the wrongful termination of the Plaintiffs if enforced.
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