The Biden administration’s mandate on Covid vaccines has been “temporarily” suspended following a court ruling that warned of “grave statutory and constitutional issues”.
The Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld an emergency stay prohibiting enforcement of the rules for companies with more than 100 employees.
As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced it is temporarily suspending both the implementation and the enforcement of the mandate until after litigation has been resolved.
Multiple anti-mandate lawsuits were filed in 12 circuit courts across the country after the mandate was formally issued on 5 November.
The Ohio-based 6th Circuit Court, which has jurisdiction over Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, won a lottery on Wednesday to hear the legal challenges.
A day after the 6th Circuit was elected to hear the legal challenges, OSHA announced it would not move forward with the vaccine mandate until the end of the legal action, which could end up in the Supreme Court.
“While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS (Emergency Temporary Standard) pending future developments in the litigation,” the agency said in a statement.
Under the Emergency Temporary Standard order, businesses with more than 100 employees had to mandate staff either be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.
The ETS order would have come into effect on 5 December and businesses were required to be fully implemented it by a 4 January deadline.
Despite the court ruling against the order, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that businesses should continue implementing the guidance regardless.
“We think people should not wait. We say: do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe. It is important and critical to do and waiting to get more people vaccinated will lead to more outbreaks and sickness,” she said.
In its 22-page ruling, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals said the vaccine and testing mandate “grossly exceeds” OSHA’s statutory authority.
The panel of judges said the Biden administration “pored over” US code in search of either authority or a “work-around” to implement the mandate.
They noted that White House chief of staff Ron Klain retweeted a news article claiming the OSHA workplace rule “is the ultimate work-around” for the Federal Government to require vaccinations.
“On the dubious assumption that the Mandate does pass constitutional muster — which we need not decide today — it is nonetheless fatally flawed on its own terms,” the ruling said.