The Biden administration in court papers filed early Tuesday urged the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to dissolve a workplace COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate ordered by another court.
The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s temporary emergency standard, published Nov. 5, applies to businesses with more than 100 employees. OHSA announced earlier this month that it was suspending enforcement of the standard and said the agency would “take no steps to implement or enforce” the standard “until further court order.”
Dozens of lawsuits from states and businesses opposing the mandate have been combined into a single case before the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has the authority to enforce or block the stay ordered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The 5th Circuit stay should be lifted immediately,” the administration argued in the court filing yesterday.
“Congress charged OSHA with addressing grave dangers in the workplace, without any carve-out for viruses or dangers that also happen to exist outside the workplace,” the administration argued in response to the allegation that OSHA overstepped its authority because COVID-19 is not restricted to being a workplace hazard.
“Even setting aside the merits, petitioners have not shown that their claimed injuries outweigh the interest in protecting employees from a dangerous virus while this litigation proceeds,” according to administration lawyers.
Under a separate mandate issued by executive order in September, federal workers were required to be vaccinated or seek an exemption. The White House reported at a press conference Monday that the federal government had achieved 95% compliance. Ninty percent of the 3.5 million federal workers had been vaccinated ahead of last night’s deadline. Another roughly 5% are in compliance by having a valid exception or an extension request, The Hill reported.
“So we are successfully implementing vaccination requirements for the largest workforce in the United States, with federal employees in every part of the nation and around the world,” White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Monday.
“To be clear, the goal of vaccination requirements is to protect workers, not to punish them. So tonight’s deadline is not an endpoint or a cliff,” Zients said. “We continue to see more and more federal employees getting their shots.”