Court allows Biden employer vaccine mandate to take effect

Dec 17, 2021, 6:16 PM | Updated: Dec 19, 2021, 9:10 am

A federal appeals court panel on Friday allowed President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for larger private employers to move ahead, reversing a previous decision on a requirement that could affect some 84 million U.S workers.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overrules a decision by a federal judge in a separate court that had paused the mandate nationwide.

The mandate from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was to take effect Jan. 4. With Friday’s ruling, it’s not clear when the requirement might be put in place, but the White House said in a statement that it will protect workers: “Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment.”

Republican state attorneys general and conservative groups said they would appeal Friday’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Twenty-seven Republican-led states joined with conservative groups, business associations and some individual businesses to push back against the requirement as soon as OSHA published the rules in early November. They argued the agency was not authorized to make the emergency rule, in part because the coronavirus is a general health risk and not one faced only by employees at work.

The panel’s majority disagreed.

“Given OSHA’s clear and exercised authority to regulate viruses, OSHA necessarily has the authority to regulate infectious diseases that are not unique to the workplace,” Judge Julia Smith Gibbons, who was nominated to the court by former President George W. Bush, a Republican, wrote in her majority opinion.

“Vaccination and medical examinations are both tools that OSHA historically employed to contain illness in the workplace,” she wrote.

Gibbons noted that the agency’s authority extends beyond just regulating “hard hats and safety goggles.” She said the vaccine requirement “is not a novel expansion of OSHA’s power; it is an existing application of authority to a novel and dangerous worldwide pandemic.”

She was joined in the majority decision by Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, an appointee of former President Barrack Obama, a Democrat.

The case was consolidated in the 6th circuit, which is dominated by Republican-appointed judges. Earlier this week, the circuit’s active judges rejected a move to have the entire panel consider the case, on an 8-8 vote.

The dissent in Friday’s ruling came from Judge Joan Larsen, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, who said Congress did not authorize OSHA to make this sort of rule and that it did not qualify as a necessity to use the emergency procedures the agency followed to put it in place.

Larsen also argued that vaccinated workers “do not face ‘grave danger’ from working with those who are not vaccinated.”

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a Republican, said she would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the order. At least two conservative advocacy groups said they had already appealed to the nation’s highest court.

“The Sixth Circuit’s decision is extremely disappointing for Arkansans because it will force them to get the shot or lose their jobs,” Rutledge said.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who also is chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said in a Twitter message Friday that he was confident the mandate could be stopped.

The vaccine requirement would apply to companies with 100 or more employees and would cover about 84 million workers in the U.S. Employees who are not fully vaccinated would have to wear face masks and be subject to weekly COVID-19 tests. There would be exceptions, including for those who work outdoors or only at home.

The administration has estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months. On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes OSHA, said the 6th circuit’s ruling will allow the agency to implement “common-sense, science-based measures to keep workers safe and healthy during a deadly pandemic.”

The vaccine rule for private employers is separate from other vaccine mandates announced by the Biden administration that apply to federal government contractors and workers in health care facilities that receive funding from Medicaid or Medicare. Those rules also are under assault from conservatives and have been paused in at least some parts of the country.

___

Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Turkish health care workers protest mounting violence

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Health care professionals took to the streets in several Turkish cities on Thursday to protest mounting violence against them, a day after a cardiologist was killed by the son of a patient. In Istanbul, police used pepper gas to disperse doctors and other health care workers who tried to march to […]
9 hours ago
FILE - A home with a "Sold" sign is shown, Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Surfside, Fla.  Average long-ter...
Associated Press

Average long-term US mortgage rates retreat this week

WASHINGTON (AP) — Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates eased again this week as the Federal Reserve remains likely to raise its benchmark borrowing rate in its ongoing battle to bring down inflation. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported Thursday that the 30-year rate fell to 5.30% from 5.70% last week. One year ago the average 30-year […]
9 hours ago
FILE - Ryan Kelley, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, speaks during a rally on Feb. 8, 2022 out...
Associated Press

Michigan governor hopeful pleads not guilty in Jan. 6 riot

A Republican candidate for Michigan governor pleaded not guilty Thursday for his actions during the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when he says he and other supporters of then-President Donald Trump were exercising their free speech rights. Ryan Kelley appeared via video for a brief hearing in federal court, weeks after […]
9 hours ago
Firefighters hose down a burning car after a strike hit a residential area, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk ...
Associated Press

Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Foreign analysts say Russia may be temporarily easing its offensive in eastern Ukraine as the Russian military attempts to reassemble its forces for a significant – and what it hopes could prove decisive – offensive to conquer the neighboring country. On Wednesday, Russian forces made no claimed or assessed territorial gains […]
9 hours ago
Associated Press

Medicines agency says EU is seeing ‘new wave’ of COVID-19

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A senior official at the European Union medicines agency said Thursday that many nations in the bloc are seeing a new wave of COVID-19, driven by highly-transmissible mutations of the omicron variant. The European Medicines Agency’s Marco Cavaleri told an online briefing that the BA.4 and BA.5 mutations are expected […]
9 hours ago
Motorists stop for fuel at gas stations in Detroit, Tuesday, July 5, 2022. As Congress and now the ...
Associated Press

Higher gas prices hurt pockets, make small dent in emissions

As Congress and now the Supreme Court stymie the Biden administration’s efforts to curb climate change, one thing the president doesn’t want – sky high gas prices – actually is nibbling away at emissions of heat-trapping gas. Gas prices in much of the United States shot past the $5 a gallon mark last month before […]
9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
...
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Court allows Biden employer vaccine mandate to take effect