A three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit – one of the most conservative appeals courts in the nation – halted President Joe Biden‘s employer vaccine mandate on Friday in a major setback for Biden’s public health agenda.
The challenge was filed by business groups and organizations closely aligned with Republicans and the conservative political movement.
The mandate, which orders businesses with more than 100 employees to require vaccinations or weekly Covid-19 testing for their workers and was scheduled to take effect on January 4, 2022, “grossly exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority,” Judge Kurt D. Engelhard, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, along with Judges Edith H. Jones and Stuart Kyle Duncan, both of whom were appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in their unanimous opinion.
“Rather than a delicately handled scalpel, the Mandate is a one-size fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers) that have more than a little bearing on workers’ varying degrees of susceptibility to the supposedly ‘grave danger’ the Mandate purports to address,” the three jurists opined.
They also suggested that the mandate may have violated the commerce clause of the Constitution by placing an undue “financial burden” on employers.
“The Mandate imposes a financial burden upon them by deputizing their participation in OSHA’s regulatory scheme, exposes them to severe financial risk if they refuse or fail to comply, and threatens to decimate their workforces (and business prospects) by forcing unwilling employees to take their shots, take their tests, or hit the road,” they said.
Meanwhile, the United States Chamber of Commerce on Monday urged businesses to implement the mandate until it is either upheld or formally struck down.
“Ultimately the courts are going to decide, but employers still need to take this as a live ETS until it is definitively shut down,” Marc Freedman, the Chamber’s vice president of employment policy, said in a statement to CNBC. “They should not bank on the preliminary actions of the 5th Circuit.”