The Biden administration’s new coronavirus vaccine mandate for large businesses has been blocked by a three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana.
In a petition filed Friday, a group of businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations and several states — including Louisiana and Texas — argued that the administration had overstepped its authority, The New York Times reported.
In their decision Saturday, the judges said they suspended the new regulation “because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.”
The lawsuit questions whether the federal government exceeded its authority in issuing the rule and whether such a mandate would need to be passed by Congress.
“The side that is asking for the injunction has to prove that this rule violates the Constitution,” Mark Kluger, founding partner at the employment law firm Kluger Healey, told the Times. “That’s a really tough burden to meet,” he added, noting that “federal agencies over the years have become increasingly aggressive about passing or creating rules.”
The Biden administration has until 5 p.m. on Monday to respond to the request for a permanent injunction.
Seema Nanda, chief legal officer for the U.S. Department of Labor, did say in a statement that the government was confident in its legal authority to issue the mandate on vaccinations and testing, the Times reported.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” Nanda said. “We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”
The decision won’t have an immediate effect because Dec. 5 is the first major deadline for the new rule, when it will require that companies with at least 100 workers make unvaccinated staff wear masks indoors, the Times reported.
Jan. 4 is the deadline for workers at large businesses to either have COVID-19 vaccinations or start weekly testing.
In related news, a separate lawsuit was filed on Friday in the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis by 11 Republican-led states, including Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah.
Authors: Robert Preidt and Robin Foster