NEW ORLEANS – A federal appeals court on Saturday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for businesses with 100 or more workers.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals has imposed an emergency stay on a requirement by the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration that those workers be vaccinated or face mask requirements and weekly tests by January 4.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the action prevents Democratic President Joe Biden from “moving forward with his illegal encroachment.”
“The president will not impose medical procedures on the American people without the checks and balances afforded by the Constitution,” Landry said in a statement.
Labor Solicitor Seema Nanda said the US Department of Labor is “confident in its legal authority to issue an emergency provisional standard on vaccination and testing.”
OSHA has the authority to “act quickly in emergencies where the agency finds that workers are at serious risk and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” she said.
Such circuit decisions generally apply to states within a district — Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, in this case — but Landry said the language employed by the judges gave the decision national scope.
“It’s a huge victory for the American people out there. Never before has the federal government tried in such a coercive way between the choice of an American citizen and their doctor. That’s the crux of the whole matter to me.”
At least 27 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits, some of which were made more conservative by the judicial appointments of former Republican President Donald Trump.
The Biden administration is encouraging widespread vaccination as the fastest way to end the pandemic that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the United States.
The administration says it believes the requirement, which includes a penalty of about $14,000 per violation, will face legal challenges because its safety rules pre-empt state laws.
The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, said it was delaying the federal vaccine requirement because of potential “serious statutory and constitutional issues” raised by the plaintiffs. The government should give a quick reply to the motion for permanent injunction on Monday, followed by a reply to the petitioners on Tuesday.
Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University’s law school, said it was troubling that a federal appeals court would halt or delay safety regulations in a health crisis, adding that no one should be allowed to go into the workplace. The right is not “unmasked, unpublished and unproven.”
“Unelected judges who have no scientific experience should not second-guess health and safety professionals at OSHA,” he said.