Thursday, June 16, 2022

Meat Processor Is Not State Actor In Requiring COVID Vaccination of Employees

In Reed v. Tyson Foods, Inc., (WD TN, June 14, 2022), a Tennessee federal district court dismissed plaintiffs' claims that their rights under RFRA and free exercise clause were violated when their employer required them to be vaccinated against COVID.  The court held that plaintiffs were not state actors, even though the President had invoked the Defense Production Act and instructed meat and poultry procession plants to continue operations.  The court said in part:

Plaintiffs contend that Defendant acted as an “agent of the government … by imposing strict worker vaccination rules to (in the estimation of the federal government), in order to preserve the integrity of the national food supply.”... However, no facts are pled that would enable the Court to find a sufficient nexus between Defendant’s vaccine policy and the involvement of the Government. The mere fact that Defendant relied on OSHA and CDC guidance in formulating its vaccine policy does not make Defendant an “agent of the government.” Nor does the fact that Defendant is subject to the federal government’s COVID-19 guidance for meat and poultry plants convert Defendant into a government actor.

The court also dismissed several other, but not all, of plaintiffs' additional claims.