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Ex-deputy sues Durham Co. sheriff over vaccine mandate

DURHAM (AP) — A former North Carolina deputy is suing a sheriff over his requirement for employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Christopher Neve, the former Durham County deputy, is asking a court to force Sheriff Clarence Birkhead to reinstate him with back pay and to rule that vaccine mandates are unconstitutional, The Herald-Sun of Durham reported Friday.
The lawsuit, filed in April in federal court, argues that mandating a vaccine that has only emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and not formal approval violates federal law.
The Durham County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment Friday, citing the ongoing litigation.
In January, Birkhead sent a notice to employees that the COVID-19 vaccine would be mandatory except for medical or religious objections, according to court documents. After Neve and other deputies failed to schedule a vaccine appointment, Birkhead sent an email on Jan. 25 reminding deputies to schedule their appointments.
Neve continued to refuse the vaccine, according to the lawsuit, and after meeting with Birkhead in March, his badge and other equipment were confiscated. Neve was first put on unpaid administrative leave, then formally terminated on March 26, according to the lawsuit.
Public employers, even though many outside of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office have not, can mandate that employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the N.C. Department of Labor and Diane Juffras, a professor of public law and government at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“Nothing prohibits a North Carolina public employer from requiring some or all of its employees to be vaccinated against particular illnesses, including COVID-19. So long as a vaccine has been authorized for use by the FDA,” Juffras wrote.

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