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States and businesses ask Supreme Court to block Biden's employer vaccine mandate

The federal mandate is one of three that the Biden administration has tried to impose. The others target health care workers and federal contractors.
A drive-thru vaccination site at Tropical Park on Dec. 16, 2021 in Miami.
A drive-thru vaccination site at Tropical Park in Miami on Thursday.Joe Raedle / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — States and businesses that oppose the Biden administration's Covid-19 vaccination requirements for larger employers are asking the Supreme Court to put the rules back on hold.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a stay late Friday that had prevented the regulations from taking effect. Issued Nov. 5 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, they require businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure that their workforces are fully vaccinated. Workers who haven't been vaccinated must be required to wear masks and show negative Covid test results at least once a week.

By a 2-1 vote, the court said OSHA had the legal authority to issue the directive, calling it "an important step in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our health care system to its knees, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs."

The National Federation of Independent Business said the ruling was "a gut punch to America's small businesses who are struggling to stay in business as they come out of the pandemic."

OSHA said it will not issue any citations for noncompliance with the Covid rules before Jan. 10 or penalties for failing to comply with the testing requirements before Feb. 9 "so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard."

Several organizations and states opposed to the requirement asked the Supreme Court on Monday to reimpose the stay. Many companies "will permanently lose clients and reputation as a result of losing workers who immediately quit and join smaller companies rather than be vaccinated or tested weekly," they said in one of their filings seeking an emergency halt to enforcement.

The Supreme Court gave the Biden administration until Dec. 30 to respond.

Other federal mandates

A separate federal rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated is in effect in half the country. Two federal appeals courts blocked its enforcement in a total of 24 states, but it remains in effect in the 26 others. The Biden administration has asked the Supreme Court to lift the stays and allow enforcement nationwide.

A third Biden vaccination requirement, for federal contractors, is on hold nationwide, blocked by order of a federal judge in Georgia. The Justice Department has appealed, but any ruling on that motion won't come for several more weeks.