The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it is suspending enforcement of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private businesses “pending future developments.”
OSHA announced the news on its website. The move comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily halted the rule, saying that that it “grossly exceeds” the authority of the agency that issued it.”
“The court ordered that OSHA 'take no steps to implement or enforce' the ETS [Emergency Temporary Standard] 'until further court order.' While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation,” OSHA stated.
On Tuesday, a federal judicial panel assigned the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court in Cincinnati to handle the lawsuits, which number at least 34, that have been filed nationwide challenging the mandate, which requires that workers of large companies (100 employees or more) be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing as of Jan. 4, 2022.
Whether OSHA will reestablish deadlines for implementation and enforcement of the ETS depends on the anticipated decision of the Sixth Circuit,” Keith Wilkes, labor and employment partner/shareholder at the national law firm Hall Estill, told Chain Store Age.
Wilkes advised covered employers to stay abreast of the legal status of the ETS.
“If the mandate comes out of the federal appellate court process intact, you can count on OSHA immediately lifting its suspension, establishing new deadlines, and giving employers a whole lot to do in an anticipated short amount of time," he said.
“The ultimate fate of the mandate will most likely be decided by the United States Supreme Court,” Wilkes said.
“Although the highest court has a conservative majority, it has yet to interfere with COVID-19 vaccination mandates," he added.