The federal worker mandate was issued on Sept. 9, 2021. According to the White House, as of December 2021, 97 percent of federal employees had been vaccinated after the mandate was announced.3
Only One of Four Federal COVID Vaccine Mandates Has Survived Court Review
The Biden administration has attempted to enforce four vaccine mandates nationwide. While all of the mandates have faced challenges in the courts, two have been adjudicated by the Supreme Court, which ruled against the private employer mandate but upheld the healthcare worker mandate. The Federal District Court in Texas ruled on the other two mandates, Executive Order 14042, which requires businesses that contract with the federal government to require its employees to be vaccinated, and Executive Order 14043 requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated.
Since Executive Order 14042 was already stayed by another court, Judge Brown did not order any other preliminary relief, but he granted plaintiffs a preliminary injunction staying Executive Order 14043 nationwide.4 The bottom line is that only one of the four federal COVID vaccine mandates—the vaccine mandate for health care workers—has survived after court review.5
In order to be granted a preliminary injunction, the party asking for relief must show they are likely to succeed on the merits; that irreparable injury would result if the relief was not granted; that the balance of the equities is in their favor, and that it is in the public’s interest.
“Choosing Between One’s Job and An Unwanted Medical Procedure That Cannot Be Undone”
The Federal District Court in Texas deferred to the 5th Circuit Court’s determination that choosing between one’s job and getting an “unwanted medical procedure that can’t be undone” amounted to irreparable injury. The judges ruled that:
… no legal remedy adequately protects the liberty interests of employees who must choose between violating a mandate of doubtful validity or consenting to an unwanted medical procedure that cannot be undone.6
The court found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits because the Biden administration lacked the statutory and constitutional authority to issue a vaccine mandate for federal employees. By balancing the equities, the government’s interest in protecting citizens from COVID and the plaintiff’s interest in not undergoing a forced medical procedure that can’t be undone, the court found that the public’s interest can be achieved by less restrictive means such as masking or social distancing. The court quoted the 5th Circuit Court ruling:
Additionally, as the Fifth Circuit has observed, “[t]he 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. OSHA, 17 F.4th at 618. The court added that the government has no legitimate interest in enforcing “an unlawful” mandate. Id. All in all, this court has determined that the balance of the equities tips in the plaintiffs’ favor, and that enjoining the federal-worker mandate is in the public interest.7
Court Found Federal COVID Vaccine Mandates Exceeded President’s Authority
The court found that the federal COVID vaccine mandate exceeded the president’s authority and required Congressional approval before ordering millions of federal workers to be vaccinated as a condition of employment…
The court notes at the outset that this case is not about whether folks should get vaccinated against COVID-19—the court believes they should. It is not even about the federal government’s power, exercised properly, to mandate vaccination of its employees. It is instead about whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.8
The court relied on the recent Supreme Court decision, NFIB v. OSHA which determined that while OSHA may regulate workplace safety standards, they may not impose public health measures. Mandating a vaccine for public health crisis is not within the purview of workplace safety standards.9
Similarly, [the law] authorizes the president to regulate the workplace conduct of executive-branch employees, but not their conduct in general. And in NFIB, the Supreme Court specifically held that COVID-19 is not a workplace risk, but rather a ‘universal risk’ that is ‘no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases.’10
White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki disagreed with the court ruling and said, “We are confident in our legal authority.”11 The Biden administration has appealed the decision and plans to take the matter to the U.S. Supreme court.12 13
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Confirms the Temporary Injunction
On Feb. 9, 2022, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 vote upheld the lower court injunction. The court requested that both parties file arguments by March.14 Forty-five Republican lawmakers filed a brief in support of the injunction.15
Pending the final decision by the 5th Circuit Court, this ruling means that currently more than seven million federal workers will not be forced to decide between their jobs and getting the COVID vaccine.
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Click here to view References:
1 Rosenberg E, Rein L.. Federal judge in Texas blocks Biden’s vaccine requirement for government workers. The Washington Post Jan. 21, 2022.
2 Durkee A. Judge Blocks Biden’s Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate Nationwide. Forbes Jan. 21, 2022.
4 Feds for Medical Freedom v. Joseph R. Biden. Case 3:21-cv-00356 Document 36. 01/21/22.
9 Berstein B. Judge Blocks Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers. National Review Jan. 21, 2022.
11 Feds for Medical Freedom v. Joseph R. Biden. Case 3:21-cv-00356 Document 36. 01/21/22.
12 Durkee A. Judge Blocks Biden’s Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate Nationwide. Forbes Jan. 21, 2022.
13 Rosenberg E, Rein L.. Federal judge in Texas blocks Biden’s vaccine requirement for government workers. The Washington Post Jan. 21, 2022.
14 Bissada M. Appeals Court Won’t Immediately Reverse Block Of Biden’s Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate. Forbes Feb. 9, 2022.
15 Appeals court will not block order barring Biden federal staff vaccination mandate. NBC News. Feb. 10, 2022.