David A. by Leeb and Geoff Mulvihill
Millions of workers across the US are in limbo as federal courts issue various decisions related to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for large private companies, some health care workers and federal government contractors.
A federal appeals court panel has allowed a vaccine requirement for employers with 100 or more workers, although the Republican attorney general, business unions and conservative groups have appealed to the US Supreme Court. A vaccine mandate for companies that contract with the federal government has been halted nationwide, while a separate mandate for health care workers who work for providers receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funding has been put on hold in half of the states. has been blocked.
The courts are responding to lawsuits brought by Republican-led states, conservative groups and some businesses. They argue that the vaccine requirements violate states’ rights to regulate public health matters. Several legal challenges are pending, some involving groups of states and others filed by states acting alone.
Separate Biden administration vaccine mandates for federal government employees and the military remain in effect, as do mask requirements for airline passengers and people using public transportation.
Legal matters concern whether the federal government can force employers to require vaccinations. Courts have generally accepted requirements that businesses and universities have placed on their own – as well as those imposed by state and local governments.
More than four-fifths of adults nationwide have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But Biden argues that his various workforce vaccine mandates are an important step in increasing vaccination rates and halting the outbreak of the virus, which has killed more than 800,000 people in the US.
Opponents take a three-pronged approach to challenge the requirements. In the lawsuits, they argue that vaccine mandates were imposed without proper public comment, were not authorized by Congress and violated states’ rights to regulate public health matters.
“The logic in the cases is basically the same, that these statutes do not give the president or the agency the authority to issue mandates,” said Gregory Magarian, a professor of constitutional law at Washington University in St. Louis. ,
The Biden administration argues that its rule-making authority is steadfast and supersedes any state policies restricting vaccine requirements. Recent experience shows that such mandates generally push people to get vaccinated: By the time a Biden requirement to vaccinate federal workers goes into effect in late November, 92% will have to get at least one shot. The first dose was received.
The following details some of Biden’s most comprehensive vaccine requirements and the status of the legal battle over them.
big business mandate
What it will do: Under a rule published by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration on November 5, businesses with 100 or more workers are required to vaccinate employees. If they are not, they will need to be tested weekly and wear masks while working, except for those who work alone or mostly outside. This rule was to be effective from January 4. The need will affect businesses with a total of 84 million employees, and OSHA estimated it could save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations in six months.
Who is challenging it: The need is being challenged by 27 Republican-led state governments, some conservative and business groups, and some individual businesses. The states filed the lawsuits mostly in groups, although Indiana challenged it alone. Their arguments include that it is the job of the states, not the federal government, to deal with public health measures. The Biden administration says the measure is legal. Some labor unions also opposed the rule, though not for the same reasons as Republicans and trade groups. They say it is not enough to protect workers.
Where it stands: The OSHA rule is allowed to take effect, at least for now. On December 17, a three-judge panel of the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted the mandate, overturning the decision of a panel of judges in the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit. The legal challenges were originally filed in various US appeals courts. The cases were later consolidated into the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit, which was selected at random.
What would happen next: The Republican attorney general, trade unions and several conservative groups immediately appealed the Sixth Circuit’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, OSHA announced it would not issue citations for its vaccination mandate before January 10 or February 9 to give employers time to adjust to their testing requirement.
health worker mandate
What it will do: Under a rule published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid on November 5, a wide range of health care providers receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funding required workers to receive the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. By December 6 and by January 4, there will be complete vaccination. The rule will affect more than 17 million workers in approximately 76,000 health care facilities and home health care providers.
Who’s Challenging It: The rule was challenged in four separate lawsuits filed by Republican-led states, mostly in groups. Florida and Texas faced their own challenges. The states argued that there were no grounds for an emergency rule, that the CMS had no explicit legal authority to issue a mandate, and that the rule violated states’ responsibilities.
Where it stands: The rule is on hold nationally, but a December 15 decision gives it the possibility of going ahead in nearly half of the states. A Missouri-based federal judge issued a preliminary injunction on November 29, barring it from being enforced in the 10 states that originally sued. The next day, a Louisiana-based federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement in the remaining states. But on December 15, that court was reduced to 14 trials. And on December 15, a federal judge in Texas passed an injunction that applies only to that state. Following the decisions, there is a possibility that the mandate could be implemented in 25 states where no prohibitory orders are in force. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid hasn’t said whether they will follow that path.
What’s next: Court decisions are being appealed by the Biden administration. On 16 December, the administration asked the Supreme Court to put on hold lower court orders that were preventing the mandate from being implemented in nearly half the states. The case filed in Missouri is being considered by the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The case filed in Louisiana brought by a coalition of 14 states is being considered by the 5th Circuit. So far, no steps have been taken to consolidate the challenges in a single court.
federal contractor mandate
What it will do: Under an executive order issued by Biden on September 9, the federal government is required to require contractors and subcontractors to follow workplace safety guidelines developed by a federal task force. That task force later issued guidelines stating that new, renewed or expanded contracts include a clause requiring employees to be fully vaccinated on January 18. This means those receiving the two-dose vaccine must receive their second shot by January 4. There are limited exceptions for medical or religious reasons. The requirements could apply to millions of employees.
Who’s Challenging It: The guidelines have been challenged through more than a dozen lawsuits, including seven brought by Republican-led states or a coalition of states. The arguments are similar to those of other vaccine mandates, saying the Biden administration had exceeded procurement rule-making powers granted by Congress, violated states’ responsibilities and did not properly gather public comment.
Where it stands: The rule is on hold. A federal judge in Georgia issued a ruling on December 7 prohibiting enforcement of the requirement for contractors at the national level. The decision came a week after a judge in Kentucky stayed the enforcement of the requirement in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
What happens next: Pending legal challenges in several other states could lead to additional decisions on injunction requests. Decisions from Kentucky or Georgia can also be appealed.
A speedy consolidation of federal contractor lawsuits appears to be impossible.