United States President Joe Biden makes remarks on the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington on November 3, 2021.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
The Biden government suspended enforcement of its vaccination and testing requirements for private companies after a federal appeals court suspended the rules pending review.
The occupational health and safety authority said in a statement on its website that the agency had suspended “activities related to implementation and enforcement” of the requirements “until the legal dispute evolves”.
The US appeals court for the fifth district, believed to be one of the most conservative in the country, ordered OSHA “not to take any steps to implement or enforce the mandate pending another court order.”
Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt described the Biden policy in a statement for the three-person committee as “devastatingly flawed” and “astonishingly too broad”.
The White House previously urged companies to continue implementing the requirements.
Republican attorneys general, private companies, and national industry groups like the National Retail Federation, American Trucking Associations, and the National Federation of Independent Business have sued to repeal the requirements. Unions are calling on the courts to extend requirements to smaller companies and protect more workers.
These cases were brought to the 6th appeals court this week.
The Sixth District, which has a Republican-appointed majority, ordered the administration to submit a single response to multiple motions by November 30, so that the entire court should hear the case, rather than a three-judge panel. A hearing by all 16 judges might be a more convenient place for those who want to overturn the requirements because of the court’s conservative majority.
The Biden government, in its response to the Fifth Circuit’s initial November 6 decision to take a break, warned that halting implementation of vaccine requirements “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives a day” if the virus spreads . The Department of Labor and Justice claim that OSHA has acted well within its congressional powers.
Under Biden’s policy, companies with 100 or more employees were given a January 4 deadline to ensure their employees were vaccinated or undergoing regular tests. Unvaccinated employees were required to wear masks indoors at work from December 5th.
OSHA said it was “still confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies”. The agency that oversees occupational safety for the Ministry of Labor has issued the requirements under its emergency authority. OSHA can shorten the normal rulemaking process if the Secretary of Labor determines that a new workplace safety standard is needed to protect workers from serious hazards.
Regardless of the outcome of the federal appeals court, the case will likely be decided by the Supreme Court, according to Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “Anyone who loses in the sixth district goes to the Supreme Court,” Tobias told CNBC on Thursday.
The US Chamber of Commerce issued a statement this week to CNBC recommending that companies continue with the implementation until the requirements are “permanently decommissioned.”
“Ultimately, the courts will decide, but employers still have to view this as a live ETS until it closes for good,” said Marc Freedman, vice president of the Employment Policy Chamber, of the temporary emergency standard. “You shouldn’t rely on the 5th district’s interim measures,” he said in a statement to CNBC.
Correction: The National Federation of Independent Business has filed a lawsuit to repeal the Biden government’s vaccination and testing requirements. In an earlier version of this story, the name of the organization was incorrectly stated. The Sixth District has asked the von Biden government to come up with a response to motions so that the entire court can consider the case. History has misrepresented the petitions previously.