Federal appeals court reinstates Biden vaccine mandate

Businesses with 100 employees or more will have to require vaccination or weekly testing in 2022, unless the Supreme Court steps in

Federal appeals court reinstates Biden vaccine mandate

The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati has ruled in favor of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses.

Lifting the Fifth Circuit’s injunction from November, the 6th Circuit has allowed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to implement and enforce the mandate, which requires workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022, or submit to weekly coronavirus tests to confirm they don’t have the virus.

Because of the mandate’s legal limbo over the past month, the Labor Department says OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any of the requirements, including a mask mandate for unvaccinated workers, until Jan. 10. Furthermore, it won’t issue citations for the testing requirements until Feb. 9, as long as businesses are making “good faith” efforts to implement the rules.

Just hours after the 6th Circuit’s ruling on Friday, at least three petitions were filed to the Supreme Court to block the mandate, FOX Business reported. Even if the high court decides to rule on the issue, history indicates that the mandate will be enforced. Last week, the Supreme Court refused to block a New York regulation mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers. In August, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett refused to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Read more: Vaccine mandate’s legal limbo means employers should ‘proceed with caution’

According to the 6th Circuit, the nationwide vaccine mandate is an “important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus,” whose death toll is approaching 1 million Americans. In addition, the court cited the massive damage to the nation’s economy, as businesses were forced to shut down for months and hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs. “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,” wrote Circuit Judge Jane B. Stranch.

The Justice Department has argued that blocking the mandate would result in “enormous” harm to the public, as hospitals brace for an increase in COVID-19 cases this winter due to the Omicron variant spreading throughout the country. “COVID-19 is spreading in workplaces, and workers are being hospitalized and dying,” the Justice Department wrote in a court filing on Friday. “As COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise and a new variant has emerged, the threat to workers is ongoing and overwhelming.” OSHA has estimated that the emergency temporary standard (ETS) could save more than 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in the six months that it would be in effect, NPR reported.

The Biden administration’s vaccine mandates for federal contractors and healthcare workers are currently held up in courts. Based on how the private business mandate has gone thus far, those cases may also end up at the Supreme Court.

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