CINCINNATI — A federal appeals court panel on Friday allowed President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test mandate for larger private employers to move ahead. The 2-1 decision by a panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reverses a decision by a federal judge in a separate court that had paused the mandate nationwide.
The rule from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration was to take effect Jan. 4. With Friday’s ruling, it’s not clear when the requirement may be put in place.
Republican-led states joined with conservative groups, business associations and some individual businesses to push back against the requirement as soon as OSHA published the rules in early November. They argued that OSHA was not authorized to make the emergency rule.
The case was consolidated before the Cincinnati-based 6th circuit, which is dominated by Republican-appointed judges. Of the two ruling in favor of the OSHA mandate, one was appointed by a Democratic president and the other by a Republican. The dissenting judge was appointed by former President Donald Trump.
“Given OSHA’s clear and exercised authority to regulate viruses, OSHA necessarily has the authority to regulate infectious diseases that are not unique to the workplace,” Judge Julia Smith Gibbons wrote in her majority opinion.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the order.
“The Sixth Circuit’s decision is extremely disappointing for Arkansans because it will force them to get the shot or lose their jobs,” she said.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who also is chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, said in a Twitter message Friday that he was confident the mandate could be stopped.
The vaccine requirement would apply to companies with 100 or more employees and would cover about 84 million workers. Employees who are not fully vaccinated would have to wear masks and be subject to weekly tests for the coronavirus. There would be exceptions for those who work outdoors or only at home.