OSP troopers, firefighters sue Gov. Brown over vax mandate

Oregon

Lawsuit follows OSP trooper put on leave for defying mandate

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group of Oregon State Police troopers and Klamath County-based firefighters have filed a lawsuit against Gov. Kate Brown over her mandate requiring full COVID-19 vaccination for state workers.

The lawsuit, filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court, states the plaintiffs are the Oregon Fraternal Order of Police along with troopers from around the state, including a Major Crimes Sergeant and a state police Captain, and a Kingsley Firefighters Association, which represents all firefighters at Kingsley Field in Klamath County and names the governor and the state of Oregon as defendants.

The group is asking a judge to declare one of Brown’s August executive orders requiring state workers to be fully vaccinated “unenforceable” because the executive order allegedly works against existing Oregon statutes and would result in wrongful termination of employees, according to the lawsuit.

The executive order, which was announced as Brown reinstated an indoor mask mandate amid a surge of COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant, requires all executive branch employees with the State of Oregon to be fully vaccinated on or before Oct. 18 or six weeks after a COVID vaccine receives full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Pfizer vaccine was fully approved by the FDA on Aug. 23.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Oregon State Police confirming a social media post made by Trooper Zachary Kowing resulted in his being placed on administrative leave. The Oregonian/Oregon Live reported Kowing’s social media post, in which the trooper reportedly announced in a patrol video while wearing his uniform he would defy Brown’s order for vaccination.

Kowing’s attorney, whose office also filed the lawsuit on behalf of the group of state troopers and firefighters on Friday, told KOIN 6 News the trooper “swore an oath to protect peoples’ rights and freedom. He felt it was important for him to stand up and speak for people who may be too afraid or unable to voice their opinions. In other words, he felt this issue was important enough to risk his job.”

Gov. Brown’s office declined to comment to KOIN 6 on the pending litigation; however, when asked earlier specifically about Kowing’s administrative leave, a spokesperson said while the office does not usually comment on personnel issues, the governor’s goal behind the mandates is to keep “schools, businesses and communities open” and pointed to the surge of hospitalizations as the delta variant sweeps across the state.

“People are dying right now when we have safe, effective, and free vaccines readily available. The Governor is responding to a public health crisis,” Brown spokesperson Liz Merah said in a statement. “Given the seriousness of the situation, employer vaccine requirements have become an important tool, and state government plays a part. It’s critical to protect state workers, workplaces, and facilities, as well as members of the public who use state services.”

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