The Biden administration has asked a federal appeals court to let the government proceed with a federal mandate that all large employers require their workers to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing starting in January.
In a 52-page motion filed on Tuesday, the Justice Department urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, to lift a judicial stay on proceeding with the rule while it is being challenged in court, saying the requirement would “save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, issued the “emergency” rule earlier this month at the direction of President Biden as one of several vaccine mandates he announced in September. The OSHA rule applies to employers with at least 100 workers, although it exempts those who work at home or exclusively outdoors.
The rule was immediately challenged by employers around the country and several Republican-controlled states. In court papers, they argued that the rule exceeded the agency’s authority under law to issue regulations to protect workers from toxic hazards at work, arguing the law was meant to address dangerous substances like asbestos but not exposure to the virus.
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel on the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, agreed with the plaintiffs in several of those cases and temporarily blocked the government from proceeding with the rule. But since then, those cases and many others from around the country have been reassigned to the Sixth Circuit in order to consolidate the litigation.
“The Fifth Circuit’s stay should be lifted immediately,” the Justice Department said in its filing. “That court’s principal rationale was that OSHA allegedly lacked statutory authority to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace on the ground that COVID-19 is caused by a virus and also exists outside the workplace. That rationale has no basis in the statutory text.”