Two important rulings have allowed two of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates to go into effect.  Below is a synopsis of these rulings and where things stand now. 

Healthcare Vaccine Mandate Resumes in Roughly Half the U.S.:

On December 15, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted the Biden administration’s request to halt a nationwide injunction barring enforcement of the vaccine mandate applicable to healthcare workers.  The order allows the healthcare vaccine mandate to resume in roughly half the country, including Michigan.  Not surprisingly, this decision has been taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court where those states affected by the decision are to present their arguments by December 30, 2021.   

The healthcare vaccine mandate remains blocked in the states challenging the mandate in the Fifth Circuit.  Those states are Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.  Additionally, a separate injunction from a Missouri case blocked the healthcare vaccine mandate in Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire.  A U.S. District Court in Texas has also blocked the mandate in Texas.  

OSHA’s Emergency Rule for Large Employers Temporarily Revived:

Late on December 17, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dissolved an earlier ruling from the Fifth Circuit that barred enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) emergency shot-or-test mandate for large employers.  In a divided 2-1 opinion, the Sixth Circuit panel determined that the harm caused by keeping OSHA’s rule blocked outweighed any potential damage resulting from allowing it to go into effect.  Just hours after the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, OSHA announced that large employers will have until January 10, 2022, to comply with the requirements of its shot-or-test mandate.  Further, it will not issue citations for noncompliance with the testing requirements before February 9, 2022, so long as the employer is making good faith efforts to comply.  

The Sixth Circuit’s ruling has already been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Justice Kavanaugh manages emergency requests from the Sixth Circuit.  He can take action on his own, but it is more likely he will refer the matter to the entire Court.  He has already asked the Biden administration to respond to the appeals by December 30, 2021.  In the meantime, the prudent course of action is for employers to begin or continue preparing as if OSHA’s mandate is going into effect within the next several weeks.

For the latest news regarding the government’s vaccine mandates or how to comply with them, employers are strongly encouraged to contact one of the experienced labor and employment attorneys at Masud Labor Law Group.