OSHA Suspends Enforcement of Vaccine Mandate

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has suspended implementation and enforcement of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers after a federal court blocked the measure.

The OSHA website page dedicated to the COVID Vaccine Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) reads: “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.”

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit fully blocked Biden’s executive order requiring companies with over 100 workers to mandate vaccination for their employees after temporarily staying it on November 12. The court ordered that OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” the vaccine mandate “until further court order.”

By its mandate, the Biden administration is claiming that the federal government, through congressional legislation, has regulatory power to issue a medical mandate for the sake of public health and therefore general welfare. However, since the directive was announced, many legal scholars have challenged its constitutionality, given that the legislation it relies on for authority explicitly states that an ETS can only be issued when employees are exposed to a “grave danger” that necessitates immediate action. That case is becoming increasingly difficult to argue, given the fact that some vaccinated individuals can transmit the disease and that treatment options for COVID infections are expanding. As of Tuesday, the Biden administration is planning to purchase 10 million doses of Pfizer’s antiviral medication to treat patients with COVID.

Some lawmakers and pundits have speculated that Biden’s strategy with the vaccine mandate recognized that the order would likely be indefensible in court but hoped that its chilling effect would pressure employers to comply in advance of any litigation.