Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate on private U.S. companies that employ 100 or more workers was put on hold Saturday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Texas, Mississippi, Utah, and South Carolina brought the lawsuit giving rise to the order, claiming that the mandate exceeds the president’s legal authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The order came shortly after OSHA issued the proposed mandate in a 490-page document proposed as an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS). The ETS mandate is set to become effective on January 4, 2022. It compels covered employers to “develop, implement, and enforce” a mandatory vaccination policy, with the only alternative to the shots being regular testing and mask-wearing.
The mandate will apply to around 84 million U.S. workers, and employers will be subject to fines for non-compliance of up to $14,000 for every violation. The Department of Labor is reportedly considering expanding the mandate to cover businesses with fewer than 100 workers.
The Court’s brief ruling stated that the lawsuit filed in the case provides “cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.” The case has been set for expedited judicial review, and the federal government was granted until Monday to answer the motion for a permanent injunction. The plaintiff states were also allowed until Tuesday to file a reply to the answer.
Labor Department attorney Seema Nanda issued a statement saying that the government is “confident in its legal authority” to enact the ETS mandate. She said that OSHA has the statutory authority to “act quickly in an emergency,” causing a “grave danger” to workers.
Even though the Labor Department claims it is acting in response to an “emergency,” the rule was not published until almost two months after Biden demanded it. It will not be effective under its terms for another two months after that.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) said that it was encouraging to see the Court halt the mandate and added that it is time for Biden “to make the right choice and rescind the mandate altogether.”
The lawsuit pending in the Fifth Circuit Court is just one of several nationwide challenging the constitutional and statutory authority of the Biden administration to enact a vaccine mandate on private employers. As many as 26 states are participating in at least one lawsuit against the mandate.