A federal appeals court on Saturday blocked the Biden administration’s private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate, asserting there may be constitutional issues with the requirement.
“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,” a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said in the brief order.
The halt of the mandate, which was unveiled this week, is temporary as the case moves forward. The case was brought by multiple businesses, including the American Family Association; multiple individuals; and several states, including Texas, Utah, and Mississippi. Petitioners said the mandate, promulgated as an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), should be struck down because it exceeds OSHA’s authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. They said 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 employees’ age and health, not 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,” lawyers for the petitioners wrote in an emergency motion asking the court to impose a stay.
“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. Administration officials have in recent days said they’re confident the OSHA rule will withstand the flurry of legal challenges that were lodged after it was made public.
Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda sent an emailed statement that the administration is prepared to defend the mandate in court.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing. 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 grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” she said.
Brandon Trosclair, a petitioner who employs nearly 500 people across grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi, said in a statement that the ruling is “an incredible first victory for all Americans,” adding that the appeals court “quickly realized that the Biden employer vaccine mandate would cause great harm to businesses like mine.”
“The court’s action not only halts Biden from moving forward with his unlawful overreach, but it also commands the judicious review we sought. The president will not impose medical procedures on the American people without the checks and balances afforded by the Constitution,” added Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican and one of the petitioners.
The appeals court panel consisted of Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan, a Trump nominee; Judge Edith Jones, a Reagan nominee; and Judge Kurt Engelhardt, a George W. Bush nominee.
The Biden administration was ordered to file a response to the petitioner’s motion for a permanent injunction by 5 p.m. on Monday and file a reply to other petitioner court documents by 5 p.m. on Tuesday.