President Joe Biden comments on the coronavirus vaccine (COVID-19) authorization for children ages 5-11 during a speech at the Southern Courtroom of the Eisenhower Administration Building at the White House in Washington on November 3, 2021.
Evelyn Hawkstein | Reuters
On Monday, the US Chamber of Commerce recommended that businesses comply with President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirements, despite a federal court order that temporarily suspended the rules.
“Ultimately, the courts will make the decision, but employers still have to perceive this as a valid ETS until it is finally closed,” said Mark Friedman, vice president of the Chamber of Employment Policy, of the interim standard for emergency situations. “They shouldn’t count on 5 preliminary actionsth Circuit, “he said in a statement to CNBC.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which oversees workplace safety for the Department of Labor, issued regulations through a rarely used fast track procedure.
The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Friday upheld its decision to suspend compliance, advising the Biden administration to refrain from compliance or enforcement until further notice. The Court of Appeal is considered one of the most conservative in the country.
The court-ordered pause, which was originally announced by a three-judge panel on November 6, was in response to lawsuits from Republican attorneys general of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah, as well as several private companies.
District Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, in a statement released on Friday, called Biden’s claims “fatally flawed” and “startlingly excessive.” Although the court has yet to rule on their constitutionality, Engelhardt made it clear that, in his opinion, lawsuits aimed at overturning Biden’s policies are likely to be successful.
Engelhardt, appointed by former President Donald Trump in 2018, criticized the claims as “a universal sledgehammer that makes little effort to accommodate differences in the workplace (and among workers).”
Last week, the Biden administration petitioned the court to lift the pause, warning that failing to comply “will likely cost tens or even hundreds of lives a day” as Covid spreads. The Justice and Labor Departments maintain that OSHA has acted within its mandate set by Congress. “
Industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Freight Forwarders’ Associations and the National Federation of Independent Business have also sued in the Fifth Circuit to overturn claims. Industry groups have argued these requirements will cause staffing and supply chain disruptions during the busy holiday season.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that the new rules will encourage people to return to their jobs, creating a safer environment in which they are less likely to contract Covid, thereby alleviating staffing problems stemming from employee illnesses.
The US Chamber of Commerce has not filed any claims against mandates. After the Biden administration issued the requirements on Nov. 4, the Chamber said it is focused on helping its members vaccinate their employees and reporting any implementation issues to OSHA that will enforce the requirements.
The chamber last month lobbied White House officials at the Office of Management and Budget to postpone vaccine introduction and testing requirements until after a busy holiday season. OSHA has provided businesses with 100 or more employees by January 4 to get their employees the vaccinations they need to get vaccinated. After this date, unvaccinated employees must take a negative Covid test weekly in order to start working. Unvaccinated workers should start wearing masks indoors in the workplace from 5 December.
The White House last week ordered companies to start complying, despite a court ruling.
“People shouldn’t wait,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters during a briefing. “They must continue to move forward and provide vaccinations in the workplace.”
The Biden administration is facing a spate of lawsuits aimed at overturning claims. Republican attorneys general in at least 26 states have challenged Biden’s policies in at least five federal appeals courts. The Republican National Committee also appealed them to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.
As Republicans seek to end mandates, some of the nation’s largest unions want the courts to expand them to include small businesses. The Food and Trade Workers ‘International Union, AFL-CIO and the Service Workers’ International Union filed petitions for consideration last week.
Most likely, the cases will be combined in one court by random selection among the jurisdictions in which the claims were filed. The Justice Department said last week that it expects the random selection to take place no earlier than Tuesday.
OSHA has issued requirements in line with the emergency response mandate set by Congress. The agency can shorten the process of developing safety and health standards in the workplace, which usually takes years, if the labor secretary determines that a new rule is needed to protect workers from serious hazards.
OSHA’s workplace safety standards have a mixed record in court. Before the pandemic, the agency had not exercised its emergency powers since 1983. Courts have suspended or canceled four of 10 emergency standards issued prior to vaccine and testing requirements. The fifth emergency standard has been partially canceled.
David Vladek, a law professor at Georgetown University, told CNBC last week that there is a “high likelihood” that the case will go to the Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority.