'It's a real logistical nightmare': Biden's vaccine requirement sets off legal challenges in Wisconsin

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DARIEN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- President Joe Biden's vaccine requirement on employers is setting off a legal showdown in Wisconsin.

Two Darien-based manufacturing companies, Tankcraft Corp. and Plasticraft Corp, are challenging the order that requires employers with 100 or more workers to be vaccinated or face a weekly testing requirement.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed a lawsuit with the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago against the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) vaccine policy.

Dan Lennington, WILL's lead attorney on the case, argues it puts companies in a tough spot. If they follow the vaccine and testing requirement, Lennington said it will lead to a loss in productivity and potentially force employees to quit.

"It's a real logistical nightmare," said Lennington. "With the testing requirement, [workers] will have to go find a test, produce it to their employers, and if they don't, they can't show up to work and that's lost hours, lost pay."

Companies that don't comply can face penalties of more than $13,000 per violation. Lennington said he hopes to get some clarity after filing the lawsuit before penalties start "racking up."

The new federal guidelines are set to go into effect on Jan. 4, 2022 and is expected to apply to 84-million workers nationwide.

It comes at a time when Wisconsin is experiencing a worker shortage, with many industries struggling to fill vacancies.

For other industries, like nursing homes, they will also have to follow the rule in order to continue receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.

LeadingAge Wisconsin, who advocates for long-term care facilities, said while they support vaccinations to curb the spread of the virus, they're worried about the potential financial consequences.

"The intent of protecting residents, absolutely we support, but we question the punitive nature of the facilities being penalized for the decision of their workers," said Brent Rapos, vice president of financial & regulatory services for LeadingAge Wisconsin.

As of October, 65% of nursing home staff in Wisconsin are fully vaccinated, according to federal data.

Nursing homes are also experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections as the highly contagious delta variant continues to drive up cases.

Rapos said facilities are preparing to address the vaccine requirement for their employees, but he worries it will result in more exits from the profession, a challenge the industry was already facing before COVID-19.

"Staffing was tenuous at best, and now with the effects of the pandemic, it's really at a point where facilities are cutting their capacity and they can't accept new residents because they don't have the staff to care for them," said Rapos.

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