No Southern Hospitality: The District of South Carolina Denies Plaintiffs’ Requests to Enjoin Local Governments’ Vaccine Mandates

On October 21, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina denied plaintiffs’ requests for a temporary restraining order against various municipal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Bauer v. Summey, No. 2:21-CV-02952-DCN, 2021 WL 4900922, at *1 (D.S.C. Oct. 21, 2021). The district court’s opinion is available here.

Case Background

In September 2021, the City of North Charleston, the City of Charleston, the County of Charleston, and the St. John Fire District announced personnel policies that required their employees and affiliated personnel be fully vaccinated. Id. at *1-2. Each of the respective policies provided a process for requesting a medical or religious exemption. Id.

 In Bauer, the various plaintiffs brought suit seeking to enjoin enforcement of these vaccine mandates, arguing the mandates violated their rights under the United States and South Carolina Constitutions, as well as various South Carolina statutes and common law. Id.

The Ruling

The district court denied the plaintiffs’ request for injunctive relief, finding that plaintiffs were not likely to prevail on the merits of their constitutional claims because the defendants had provided several rational justifications for the policies. Id. at *11. Likewise, the district court found that plaintiffs were unlikely to prevail on the merits of their state law claims – which ranged from wrongful discharge to the right to privacy. Id. at *14-18.

The district court also concluded the plaintiffs had not demonstrated irreparable harm and that the balance of equities favored the state. Id. at *18-19. “While plaintiffs may remain unvaccinated at their own risk, the balance of equities and public interest do not require defendants to allow plaintiffs to spread that risk in their workplace and, by extension, into the communities they serve.” Id. at *19. Accordingly, the Court denied the plaintiffs’ motions for injunctive relief. Id. at *20.

Need help trying to work through the legal ramifications of your vaccine mandate policy? Contact Charles Insler in our Employment & Labor Law practice group for expert help.

  • Charles N. Insler

    Charles N. Insler concentrates his practice on complex commercial litigation including;

    • antitrust and unfair competition litigation
    • appellate work
    • business torts
    • class action litigation
    • intellectual property disputes

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