Federal court docket reinstates Biden administration’s enterprise vaccine mandate

United States President Joe Biden speaks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, USA on Wednesday, November 3, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A federal appeals court reinstated the Biden government’s vaccine and testing requirements for private companies, which include some 80 million American workers.

The Cincinnati 6th Court of Appeal’s ruling overturned a November restraining order that blocked the Labor Protection Agency’s rule that applies to companies with 100 or more employees.

In Friday’s ruling, the court found that OSHA “has demonstrated the pervasive danger that COVID-19 poses to workers – especially those who have not been vaccinated – in their workplaces.

The Justice Department argued last week that blocking the requests would do “enormous” damage to the public as hospitals prepare for an increase in Covid cases this winter and the heavily mutated Omicron variant gaining a foothold in more states.

“COVID-19 is spreading to workplaces and workers are being hospitalized and dying,” the Justice Department argued in a court file on Friday. “As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise and a new variant has emerged, the threat to workers is persistent and overwhelming.”

The policy required companies with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated by Jan 4th or have a negative Covid test weekly to enter the workplace. Unvaccinated workers were required to wear masks indoors from December 5th.

Republican attorneys general, private companies, and industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business sued for repeal of the policy. They argued that the requirements are unnecessary, place compliance costs on businesses, and exceed the powers of the federal government.

The Biden administration stopped implementing and enforcing the requirements last month to comply with an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th District in New Orleans. Judge Kurt D. Englehardt said in an opinion for a three-person committee that the requirements were “surprisingly too broad” and raised “serious constitutional concerns”.

The more than two dozen lawsuits filed against the vaccine and testing requirements were transferred to the Sixth Circuit last month after the Biden government launched a cross-district judicial process to randomly consolidate the case in a single court.

The Justice Department argued in its trial last week that the labor protection agency that developed the requirements acted within their emergency powers established by Congress. The Biden government rejected opponents who claimed workers were quitting because of the policy, saying the compliance costs were “modest”.

“The threat to people’s life and health also far outweighs petitioners’ suspicions about the number of workers who may quit instead of getting vaccinated or tested,” the Justice Department wrote on its file, arguing that many workers are who say they will stop completing in the end with vaccination orders.

OSHA, which oversees occupational safety for the Department of Labor, developed the vaccine and testing requirements under emergency powers that allow the agency to shorten the normal rulemaking process, which can take years. OSHA may issue an emergency workplace safety standard if the Secretary of Labor determines that a standard is required to protect workers from serious danger.

The White House has repeatedly argued that Covid poses a serious threat to workers, highlighting the appalling death toll from the pandemic and rising Covid infections in the United States

Reuters contributed to this report.

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