The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has suspended all activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 large-business vaccine mandate while the mandate is pending in court.
Last week, a temporary hold on the mandate was confirmed by a federal appeals court. The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals, based in New Orleans, granted the emergency stay on Nov. 13.
The court ordered that OSHA ‘take no steps to implement or enforce the ETS (COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard)’ ‘until further court order,’ the OSHA website reads.
“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 pending future developments in the process,” the statement continued.
Lawyers from the Justice and Labor Departments filed a response the day after the injunction was upheld, saying ending the mandate will only prolong the COVID-19 pandemic and would “cost dozens or even hundreds of lives a day.”
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Challenges to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers include officials in 27 Republican-led states, employers, and several conservative and corporate organizations. They argue that OSHA does not have the authority to impose the mandate.
The employer vaccination mandate calls on companies with more than 100 employees to require employees to be vaccinated or wear masks and tested weekly for COVID-19 by January 4. Exemptions are provided for religious reasons and for those who work at home or only outside the home.
Because it’s an unusual rule from the workplace safety agency, there’s no consensus among attorneys about how the challenges will unfold. OSHA has issued just 10 emergency rules in the half-century since its inception. Of the six challenged in court, only one survived intact.
The Biden administration has maintained that the mandate has a firm legal basis. The mandate also has the support of the American Medical Association, which has submitted documents in support.
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On Tuesday, a random ping pong ball draw of decided challenges for the mandate will be consolidated in the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, a panel dominated by judges appointed by Republicans.
This story was reported from Detroit. The Associated Press contributed.