A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate for large employers in the United States after the mandate was blocked by another court.
In early November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) filed an emergency temporary standard with various COVID rules.
Under the standard, employers, who have more than 100 employees, must develop, implement and enforce a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to choose to either be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing and wear a face covering at work.
OSHA set a January 4 deadline for full vaccination.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on workers, and we continue to see dangerous levels of cases,” U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said.
“We must take action to implement this emergency temporary standard to contain the virus and protect people in the workplace against the grave danger of COVID-19,” Walsh said.
“The emergency temporary standard does not require employers to pay for testing,” the agency said.
“Employers may be required to pay for testing to comply with other laws, regulations, collective bargaining agreements, or other collectively negotiated agreements. Employers are also not required to pay for face coverings,” the agency added.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a stay on OSHA’s emergency temporary standard in November after it was issued.
The ruling came after multiple Republican-led states filed legal challenges against the standard.
The Justice Department responded to the ruling by asking the court to withdraw its stay, arguing that the vaccine and testing requirements were within the authority of OSHA.
The Justice Department also argued the mandate would have dire consequences if it was blocked, the New York Times reported.
The appeals court issued a 22-page ruling barring the Biden administration and OSHA from moving forward with the mandate.
Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt said in the ruling that the stay was “firmly in the public interest.”
“From economic uncertainty to workplace strife, the mere specter of the mandate has contributed to untold economic upheaval in recent months. Of course, the principles at stake when it comes to the Mandate are not reducible to dollars and cents,” Engelhardt said.
“The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions—even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials,” Engelhardt added.
On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in a 2-1 ruling, overturned the Fifth Circuit’s previous ruling.
“By contrast, the costs of delaying implementation of the ETS are comparatively high. Fundamentally, the ETS is an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our healthcare system to its knees, forced businesses to shut down for months on end, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs,” Circuit Judge Jane B. Stranch wrote in the opinion issued Friday.
“In a conservative estimate, OSHA finds that the ETS will “save over 6,500 worker lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations” in just six months. A stay would risk compromising these numbers, indisputably a significant injury to the public,” Stranch said.
“The harm to the Government and the public interest outweighs any irreparable injury to the individual Petitioners who may be subject to a vaccination policy, particularly here where Petitioners have not shown a likelihood of success on the merits,” Stranch added.
OSHA’s mandate will apply to more than 84 million private-sector employees, which is two-thirds of the nation’s private-sector workforce.