Update on Federal Government Vaccine Requirements

Update on Federal Government Vaccine Requirements

Changes to the effective dates of the federal government’s multiple COVID-19 mandates continue coming at a fast pace.  Below is a synopsis of the recent changes.

Healthcare Vaccine Mandate Halted:

Yesterday, November 30, 2021, a U.S. District Court in Louisiana blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate applicable to healthcare workers.  This mandate requires Medicare and Medicaid certified medical facilities to ensure its staff is fully vaccinated, subject to certain exemptions, by January 4, 2022, or face potential monetary fines and/or the loss of federal funding.  The court’s order prevents the federal government from enforcing this mandate, subject to future litigation.  The order has nationwide effect, excluding only the ten states where enforcement of the healthcare mandate had already been blocked under an order issued by a U.S. District Court in Missouri on November 29, 2021.

Extended Comment Period for OSHA’s Emergency Rule:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) was also active yesterday, announcing it had extended the period to comment on its COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirement by 45 days (i.e., from December 6 to January 19, 2022).  Now, those wishing to comment on OSHA’s rule, which requires most employers with 100 or more employees to require its workers to be fully vaccinated or submit to weekly testing, have more time to do so.  Enforcement of OSHA’s rule has been on hold since November 5, 2021, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit enjoined the rule pending further review.

Federal Worker Mandate Postponed:

Back in September, the Biden administration instructed federal agencies to provide counseling, followed by suspensions and more severe penalties, to federal workers that did not get vaccinated or obtain an exemption by November 22, 2021.  However, on Monday, November 29, 2021, the White House Office of Management and Budget directed federal agencies to counsel and educate unvaccinated workers through “the holiday season,” but delay issuing suspensions or other enforcement measures until January 2022.  In issuing this direction, the agency cited data showing 92% of the 3.5 million federal employees are vaccinated.  

Federal Contractor Mandate Blocked in Three States:

Also coming on November 30, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove, who serves in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, granted a request to block the Biden administration’s federal contractor vaccine mandate in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.  That mandate requires certain federal contractors to vaccinate their workforce.  Judge Tatenhove’s order bars enforcement of the federal contractor vaccine mandate in these three states pending “full briefing and appellate review.”

For the latest news regarding government vaccine mandates, employers are strongly encouraged to contact the experienced labor and employment attorneys of Masud Labor Law Group.