On Saturday, a federal appeals court temporarily halted the implementation of the President Joe Biden administration’s new vaccine rule for large employers, after a group of companies filed a lawsuit against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, seeking an injunction against the rule on Friday.
A panel of three judges from the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans did not rule on that request, but issued a stay against the vaccine rule, stating that the mandate may have “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”
The court set a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday for the Biden administration to respond to the petitioners’ request for a permanent injunction to prevent the rule from going into effect. A group of employers and Republican state attorneys general filed the request, claiming the rule is unconstitutional.
The new rule is not really a mandate because it allows workers to be tested weekly instead of being vaccinated against COVID-19. Employers with at least 100 employees have until January 4 to implement and enforce vaccine-or-test programs for their employees, according to OSHA.
Those who do not comply face fines of around $14,000 for “serious” violations and $137,000 for “willful or repeat” violations.
According to the Biden administration, the vaccine rule is the best way to protect workers who are still at risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID-19. The regulation has been in the works for months, and the lawsuit was unsurprising given that high-profile Republicans have vowed to fight it from the start.
Former President Donald Trump appointed two of the three judges who granted the stay on Saturday.
On Twitter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared, “the fight is not over, and I will never stop resisting this Administration’s unconstitutional overreach!”
“The Biden administration has argued that the vaccine rule is the best way to protect workers still at risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19.”
The most important parts of the vaccine rule are not expected to go into effect for several weeks. Employers subject to the rule must implement masking in the workplace by December 4 and have their vaccine-or-test programs in place by January 4. Officials from OSHA explained on Thursday that they wanted to give employers enough time to prepare.
The White House estimates that the rule will affect 84 million workers, despite the fact that small businesses will be exempt. OSHA officials stated that they believed larger employers had the administrative capacity to carry out the vaccine-or-test programs, but they have not ruled out expanding the regulation to more workplaces in response to public feedback.
Because the rule is an “emergency temporary standard,” it has not gone through the normal rulemaking process, which can take years. OSHA has the authority under occupational safety and health law to enforce such rules in an emergency, and agency officials argue that the regulation is legal.
During a press conference on Thursday, Jim Frederick, the deputy assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, stated that he expected most employers to follow the rule without issue. “The vast majority of workplaces comply with OSHA standards,” he said.