Federal court freezes Biden's vaccination requirement for private businesses

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has suspended a COVID-19 vaccination requirement announced by President Joe Biden's administration for private employers with more than 100 employees, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued the decision Nov. 6 after a group of plaintiffs — including Louisiana, Utah, Texas, South Carolina and Mississippi — filed a lawsuit Nov. 5 questioning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's authority in issuing the rule. 

In the decision, a panel of three judges wrote there is "cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate."

The court's decision — which is not a ruling on policy merits — temporarily stops the vaccination requirement while the court does a more thorough review. The Justice Department has until 5 p.m. Nov. 8 to respond to the lawsuit's request for a more permanent freeze of the requirement.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry issued a statement praising the Fifth Circuit's decision, describing it as "a win for the liberty of job creators and their employees." He said the court's action "not only halts Biden from moving forward" but also "commands the judicious review we sought." 

OSHA issued an emergency temporary standard Nov. 4 outlining COVID-19 vaccination requirements for employers with 100 or more employees. The standard is expected to cover 84 million private-sector workers and two-thirds of the U.S. private-sector workforce. 

OSHA said businesses covered by the emergency temporary standard must put in place a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy, unless they adopt a policy requiring employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. Under the standard, employers also must provide paid time off to workers to get inoculated and provide paid leave to employees to recover from any side effects.

In an interview Nov. 7 on ABC , U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, defended the vaccination requirement.

"The President and the administration wouldn't have put these requirements in place if they didn't think that they were appropriate and necessary, and the administration is certainly prepared to defend them," he told "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz, adding that there is a history of vaccination requirements in the U.S.

But the emergency temporary standard has received some pushback from states and business groups, which are concerned about disruptions during the holiday season.

In addition to the Fifth Circuit case in Louisiana, a coalition of 11 states sued President Biden's administration Nov. 5 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit over the rule for private businesses.

CMS has also announced a separate vaccination rule expected to cover 17 million healthcare workers at healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs. The CMS regulation preempts state laws and other federal regulation requirements for all facilities that are regulated by CMS' Conditions of Participation.


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