The Federal Appeals Commission on Friday reinstated a Biden administration rule requiring many companies to require their employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo weekly testing.
A ruling by a split panel of three judges from the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati overturned a ruling by a New Orleans, fifth Circuit colleague that blocked the rule last month.
The ruling issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to be referred to the Supreme Court. It faced a wave of lawsuits from businesses, trade groups and states. The Biden administration has urged companies to move forward despite this uncertainty, especially given the growing threat of the Omicron variant and the rise in new cases across the country.
The rule, which President Biden first announced in September, requires companies with at least 100 employees to mandate their employees to be vaccinated against COVID by January 4. They are also allowed, but not required, unless a worker is exempted for medical or religious reasons, to provide their workers with weekly testing.
OSHA has the authority to adopt an “interim emergency standard” if it can show that workers are at “serious risk” and that this regulation is necessary. The Sixth Circuit group said Friday that the agency has sufficiently demonstrated that the coronavirus pandemic meets this standard.
“OSHA explains why the transmission mechanism of Covid-19 makes our traditional workplaces ripe for the spread of the disease, putting workers at increased risk of infection,” wrote Judge Jane B. Stranch.
She added that the ruling refers to “the possibility of new options” in support of OSHA’s argument that the current situation is a pervasive emergency, noting that the possibility of new options mentioned by the agency when issuing the rule “is supported by the Omicron option. … “