The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it’s suspending the Biden administration’s vaccinate mandate for the country’s largest employers after a federal court blocked the measure.
The organization’s website states, “While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.”
The mandate, which was officially rolled out in early November, requires that by January 4, employers with 100 or more employees must ensure workers are fully vaccinated or that they undergo weekly COVID testing. Under the guideline, unvaccinated workers also must wear a face mask in the workplace beginning December 5.
Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which represents Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, temporarily blocked the order. As part of the ruling, OSHA was instructed to “take no steps to implement or enforce the Mandate until further court order.”
“The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions – even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials,” Fifth Circuit Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote in his decision.
The opinion describes the mandate as overinclusive because it applies to “employers and employees in virtually all industries and workplaces in America, with little attempt to account for the obvious differences between the risks” and that it’s underinclusive because it makes “no attempt to shield employees with 98 or fewer coworkers from the very same threat.”
In addition to the Fifth Circuit, dozens of lawsuits have been filed across the country. In response, the Biden administration requested that a panel pull all the lawsuits together to be heard in a single federal court selection at random. The winner of this lottery system was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which will decide whether to remove the block put in place by the Fifth Circuit.
CNBC reported that it’s “widely expected” that the case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
After the U.S Court of Appeals stopped the order in its tracks, the Department of Justice said it will defend the OSHA standard.
“This decision is just the beginning of the process for review of this important OSHA standard,” the department said in a statement. “The Department will continue to vigorously defend the standard and looks forward to obtaining a definitive resolution following consolidation of all of the pending cases for further review.”
OSHA said the mandate would protect more than 84 million workers from the spread of COVID while on the job and prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations due to workplace exposure. Since 2020, more than 750,000 have died in the U.S.