As more COVID mitigation mandates are imposed in New Jersey and nationwide, expect the legal challenges to continue.

Even though a judge refused to immediately block Gov. Phil Murphy's mask mandate in school buildings, the federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the mandate will proceed. Another hearing is scheduled in this case next week.

In New York, a judge has temporarily blocked that state's vaccination mandate for healthcare workers. The judge cited the lack of a religious exemption in the law. A group of Christian healthcare workers are suing, claiming all of the available vaccines use aborted fetus cell lines in testing development or production.

The religious exemption has been tricky, since most major religious have endorsed or supported COVID vaccination. That includes the Catholic Church, which deemed the vaccinations "morally acceptable."

Most of the vaccine mandates in New Jersey do allow for a religious exemption, or a testing option. However, mechanisms are in place in many areas that seek to make not getting vaccinated difficult and — in some cases — costly.

Trenton is the latest city to announce a vaccine mandate for all employees. They will have to show proof of vaccination by October 18, or submit to COVID testing twice weekly. A memo obtained by says employees will have to pay for their own testing. Failure to comply could result in termination.

Private companies are also considering charging the unvaccinated more for healthcare coverage. Delta airlines was the first, announcing last month a $200 per month surcharge on those who refuse to get the COVID vaccine.

Companies are also looking at workplace segregation of the unvaccinated. As more employees return to physical locations, some offices are begin segregated, with the unvaccinated cordoned off into one location and the freedom to roam the workplace often restricted.

All of this is in line with what President Joe Biden and Murphy have both endorsed and encouraged. Biden announced sweeping new vaccination requirements for millions of American workers. Murphy has supported that move, and urged private employers in New Jersey to implement the federal policies and to go even further to force vaccination.

For businesses, it's a difficult road to navigate. While the forced mandates remove one major step in the decision making process for back-to-work policy, it creates new problems. Many companies fear losing employees who don't want to be vaccinated at a time when workers are in short supply to begin with. Others worry about the cost of testing and reconfiguring work spaces.

With court challenges proceeding and federal, state and local policies evolving, it will be some time before any sense of normal will return to the workplace.

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