Appeals Court Reinstates Biden’s Vaccine-or-Testing Mandate Rules for Large Businesses
© REUTERS / Evelyn HocksteinU.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the authorization of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11, during a speech in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 3, 2021.
In November, the Biden administration said companies with over 100 employees must ensure each of their workers is either fully vaccinated or tests negative for the virus weekly starting from 4 January 2022. However, an injunction that same month by the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans had blocked the government from carrying out the rule.
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati on Friday reinstated a Biden administration rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated, or wear masks and submit to weekly COVID-19 testing by 4 January 2022.
The decision thus overturned a November ruling by the Fifth Circuit Appeals Court in New Orleans that had blocked the government from implementing the rule, issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA's order has faced a wave of lawsuits from businesses and Republican-controlled states.
“The record establishes that COVID-19 has continued to spread, mutate, kill, and block the safe return of American workers to their jobs. To protect workers, OSHA can and must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve,” stated the ruling.
In response, the White House welcomed the decision, touted as part of its key COVID-19 strategy.
“The OSHA vaccination or testing rule will ensure businesses enact measures that will protect their employees,” said White House spokesman Kevin Munoz.
He underscored that due to concerns triggered by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus, it was “critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.”
Several business groups moved swiftly to challenge the ruling, either filing an appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday evening or announcing their intention to do so. The National Retail Federation said it would “consider additional legal options,” while also continuing to “prepare our members to comply with this onerous mandate.”
9 December 2021, 06:24 GMT
President Joe Biden had announced in September that the rule would be developed as part of a sweeping strategy to boost coronavirus immunisation rates and curb the spread of the pandemic.
The OSHA-issued rule for large employers obligates companies to require vaccinations by 4 January, while unvaccinated employees would be obligated to wear masks indoors starting 5 December, and be tested weekly for the virus at the outset of the new year. The rule does not apply to workers with an exemption from the jabs for medical or religious reasons, or employees who do not come into close contact with other people at their workplace.
17 December 2021, 02:36 GMT
Businesses groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business as well as several GOP-led states involved in the lawsuit challenging the rule have argued that it exposes companies to financial risk for refusing to comply.
However, the appeals court on Friday disputed the argument laid out in the suit led by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, and joined by fellow Republican attorneys general in Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.
"The claim that COVID-19 exists outside the workplace and thus is not a grave danger in the workplace is equally unavailing. As discussed above, OSHA routinely regulates hazards that exist both inside and outside the workplace," stated the court.
The Biden administration was forced to stop implementation and enforcement of the vaccine mandate after an order issued by the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, Louisiana, blocked it. At the time, Judge Kurt D. Englehardt said the requirements were “staggeringly overbroad” and raised “serious constitutional concerns”.
30 November 2021, 01:02 GMT
Other components of the White House’s COVID-19 strategy, such as vaccine requirements for health workers and federal contractors, are also facing legal suits. According to the Biden administration, an estimated 22 million people would get vaccinated against the coronavirus and that 250,000 hospitalisations would be prevented because of the rule applying to more than 84 million workers.