An appeals court on Friday upheld its decision to pause President Biden’s sweeping vaccine mandate for private companies, calling the rule “staggeringly overbroad.”
A three-member panel of the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans cited “grave statutory and constitutional” concerns about the mandate, which would force all full and part-time workers at businesses with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or get tested weekly and wear face masks.
“The mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers),” Circuit Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote for the panel in its opinion.
The mandate — issued by the Occupational Hazard and Safety Administration in September — states that employers must make sure all workers have the COVID-19 shot or are undergoing weekly tests by Jan. 4. Those that fail to comply face a $14,000 fine per infraction.
The requirement, which would affect over 84 million workers, prompted legal challenges from several states, as well as from religious and business groups, who argue it is unconstitutional.
The Biden administration has argued the mandate is necessary to put an end to the pandemic and reopen the economy, and that halting its implementation could lead to dozens or even hundreds of deaths.
The appeals court issued an emergency stay on enforcement on Nov. 6, and affirmed the ruling on Friday.
“The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions – even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials,” Engelhardt wrote in the decision.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton hailed the court’s decision as a victory in a tweet on Friday. His state was one of several challenging the mandate.
“Citing Texas’s “compelling argument[s],” 5th Circuit has stayed OSHA’s unconstitutional & illegal private-business vaccine mandate,” he wrote. “WE WON! Litigation will continue, but this is a massive victory for Texas & FREEDOM from Biden’s tyranny & lawlessness.”
The White House had no immediate comment on the ruling.
With Post wires