Last week, the Biden administration asked a federal appeals court in New Orleans to lift a temporary order halting a federal COVID-19 vaccination mandate on private businesses, while warning employers that they should comply with the mandate despite the “stay.”
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on Saturday, temporarily halted the mandate on private sector businesses with 100 employers or more, citing “grave” constitutional issues. Ruling on lawsuits filed by Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as a Louisiana businessman seeking to prevent the mandate from taking effect, the appeals court issued the stay saying, “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 the court.
The mandate, which could affect an estimated 100 million American workers, includes a Jan. 4 deadline for vaccination. The policy also imposes nearly $14,000 in fines per employee if businesses are caught letting their workers skirt the mandate. “Willful violations” could result in fines up to $136,000.
Republican-led states filed multiple lawsuits last week challenging the mandate’s legality. Louisiana businessman Brandon Trosclair with assistance from the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest law firm, and the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, also filed suit.
Other lawsuits are pending, including an 11-state coalition, which includes Montana, filed in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against OSHA. Montana is joined by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
A similar lawsuit was filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the attorneys general of Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Georgia, Florida, and Alabama have also filed a lawsuit in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the new rules exceed the Department of Labor’s “statutory authority, fails to comply with the standards for issuing an [Emergency Temporary Standard], and conflicts with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”
“I am confident that the courts will see this mandate for what it truly is: An attempt to make laws while bypassing Congress,” Sarah Harbison, general counsel at the Pelican Institute, said in a statement.
The administration’s 28-page legal request to lift the stay, included OSHA’s claims that a stay would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day.”
The administration claimed the OSHA’s authority is grounded in its traditional role of protecting workers from workplace dangers, such as exposure to “substances or agents” that are determined to be toxic.
“The COVID-19 virus is both a physically harmful agent and a new hazard,” the court filing said.
“We think people should not wait,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was quoted by media. “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.”
A final ruling could come as early as Wednesday. If the Fifth Circuit permanently blocks the mandate, the administration could appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.