A federal appeals panel in Louisiana has temporarily blocked the Biden administration’s new safety regulations that direct companies with more than 100 workers to require that their employees get vaccinated against the coronavirus in early January.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted a temporary suspension to a group of Republican-led businesses, religious groups, advocacy organizations, and several states that had filed a joint petition in court, arguing that the administration had exceeded its authority.
Numerous Republican-led states have filed legal challenges against the new rule, including Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah.
The court said in a short order, signed by a deputy clerk, that the judges were blocking the regulation “because the petitions give reason to believe that there are serious constitutional and statutory problems with the Mandate.” He said the rule was suspended “pending further action by this court.”
The two-page order did not elaborate on what the constitutional and statutory issues were with the rule, nor did it give any indication of whether the judges agreed with the rule’s opponents. But he ordered the Biden administration to respond by 5 p.m. Monday to the request for a permanent injunction from groups opposing the rule.
Seema Nanda, legal director for the US Department of Labor, said in a statement that the government relied on its legal authority to issue the temporary emergency rule on vaccination and testing.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subject to serious danger and a new standard is needed to protect them,” said Ms. Nanda.
“We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court,” he added.
The regulations won’t go into effect until January 4. On Thursday, the Biden administration set that date as the deadline for large companies to require coronavirus vaccines or begin weekly testing of their workers. The move was the government’s biggest effort yet to involve private companies in the fight against the virus.
The new rules they were developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and issued as a “temporary emergency standard,” invoking emergency powers related to workplace safety. Applying to companies with 100 or more, the mandate is expected to cover 84 million workers, approximately 31 million of whom are not vaccinated. It presents details of a plan that President Biden first announced in September.