Federal Court Blocks Biden Administration’s Private Business COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

By Victor Westerkamp | November 6, 2021
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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference in the State Dining Room at the White House on Nov. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Image: SAMUEL CORUM/Getty Images)

On Saturday Nov. 6, a federal appeals court blocked Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses with over 100 employees, citing “grave statutory and constitutional” issues. 

“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate, the mandate is hereby stayed pending further action by this court,” the panel of judges for the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a short order.

The court gave the Biden administration until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to the plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction.

In September, the president assigned the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to promulgate a federal “emergency temporary standard” (ETS) to put the mandate into practice. 

The mandate, if imposed, could affect some 84 million workers. According to the government’s guidelines, violations of the order would be met with fines of up to $14,000 per infraction. However, opposition groups have already announced they would immediately take legal action as soon as it was made public.

READ MORE: Biden Administration Inches Towards Mandatory Vaccination Edict for US Workers With OSHA Employer Oversight

The appeal was filed by numerous private enterprises, religious institutions, and republican-governed states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah, and groups of 26 states in the 8th Circuit, 11th Circuit, 6th Circuit, and 5th Circuit over the past few days. 

They sought to quash Thursday’s emergency rule, which requires companies with over 100 employees to have their workers vaccinated or, in case of non-vaccinated employees, wear masks and get tested weekly.

According to federal law, an ETS can only be issued when deemed “necessary” and to keep employees from “grave danger” like “substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards.”  

The plaintiffs argued that the authority is limited to workplace-related hazards while the risk from COVID-19 is “a society-wide danger.” They also said the mandate doesn’t make sense because determining whether COVID-19 is a workplace hazard depends on an employees’ age and health, not by how many co-workers they have.

“In an attempt to impose a nationwide vaccination mandate without approval from Congress, the executive branch has couched its COVID-19 vaccine mandate as an emergency workplace rule affecting nearly 100 million Americans. But the ETS is neither a workplace rule nor responsive to an emergency,” the attorneys wrote in the emergency motion.

“Vaccination status is a public health issue that affects people throughout society; it is not a hazard particular to the workplace. And there is no need to use an emergency rule to address a pandemic that has been going on for nearly two years. Congress did not grant OSHA such sweeping powers in its authorizing statute,” they added.

However, the administration felt confident in defending the order in court.

“The U.S. Department of Labor is confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. 

“The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger, and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” she added. “We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”