- The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a halt to President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements pending review.
- “The petitions give reason to believe that there are serious statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate,” the court said.
- Labor Department’s top lawyer Seema Nanda said the administration is “fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”
- The three judges who issued the order were appointed by former President Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan.
A federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily blocked President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses, just a day after they officially went into effect.
Republican attorneys general for Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi and Utah, as well as several private companies, filed petitions in the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday challenging the mandate.
The court on Saturday ordered a halt to vaccine and testing requirements pending review “because the petitions give reason to believe that there are serious statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”
The three judges who issued the order – Stuart Kyle Duncan, Kurt Damien Engelhard and Edith Hollan Jones – were appointed by former Presidents Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan.
The Biden administration has until Monday evening to respond.
Labor Department’s top lawyer Seema Nanda said the administration is “fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which regulates workplace safety for the Department of Labor, has developed vaccine and testing requirements under emergency authorization that allows the agency to shortcut the process of issuing workplace safety standards, Which usually takes years.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly empowers OSHA to act quickly in an emergency situation where the agency finds that workers are at serious risk and for their safety,” Nanda said in a statement Friday. A new standard is necessary.” The Republican attorney general and companies filed their challenge.
Under the mandate, companies with 100 or more employees must ensure their employees have received the shots they need for full immunization by January 4. After that date, unvaccinated employees must submit a weekly negative COVID-19 test to enter the workplace. Non-vaccinated workers should start wearing masks indoors at their workplaces from 5 December.
Nanda said the mandate “prevents any state or local requirements that restrict or limit an employer’s right to require vaccination, face coverings or testing.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott last month banned vaccine mandates in the Lone Star state through an executive order.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, in a statement Friday, called the vaccine mandate “a breathtaking abuse of federal power,” arguing that it is “flatly unconstitutional.” Paxton said the mandate goes beyond OSHA’s “limited power and specific responsibilities.”
In their petition to withhold the mandate, several companies operating in Texas challenged OSHA’s authority to issue emergency workplace safety standards, arguing that it was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the executive branch. OSHA’s emergency authority was established by Congress.
The companies — Burnett Experts, Choice Staffing and Staffing Force — also argued that the requirements put them in a position to violate federal regulations or Texas state law.
He also said the mandate would result in irreparable harm, including fines for potential non-compliance as well as loss of employees to smaller companies that are not covered by the mandate.