Federal Vaccine Mandates

The Kentucky Chamber is working with the administration to get the most up-to-date information on the federal vaccine mandate and the anticipated decisions by the Supreme Court. Read the following statement from the Kentucky Chamber on the federal vaccine mandate:

"The Chamber continues to be a strong advocate for vaccination to control the spread of the virus, but the recent filing of the OSHA emergency temporary standard that requires certain employers to mandate vaccines or testing is an attack on employers’ rights. We have maintained throughout the pandemic that policies should protect the rights of employers to make vaccination and testing decisions based on what is best for their facilities and workers with consideration of their customers. The Chamber will help businesses navigate this recent rulemaking and the challenges it presents."

Stay tuned on The Bottom Line for news and updates around the coronavirus, vaccines and more. 

What Employers Need to Know

The Biden Administration’s Path out of the Pandemic Plan announced early this summer mandated, and directed various agencies, to require vaccinations for four specific groups: Federal employees, employees of federal contractors, employees of companies with at least 100 employees, and employees of healthcare providers receiving funds from Medicare or Medicaid. 

  • The contractor executive order and guidance requires employees of all federal contractors and subcontractors to be fully vaccinated (all shots plus two weeks) by January 18. 
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), released on November 5, requires all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated (all shots taken) by January 4, although an employer may allow employees to submit weekly test results as an alternative.
  • Finally, The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)’s interim final rule, also released November 5, requires vaccinations for most workers employed by a health care center that receives Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements.

Since President Biden’s announcements of the various vaccine mandates, multiple lawsuits have been filed by various parties. Listed below is the current status of these lawsuits. 

As of Tuesday, January 4, 2022.

OSHA ETS

  • The Bottom Line:  The OSHA ETS is in effect at this time.
  • The final reply briefs in the ETS and CMS cases were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court on January 3. The Supreme Court has scheduled special oral arguments on whether the ETS and CMS regulations should be stayed pending further consideration on the merits of their challenges for Friday, January 7.
  • On December 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit denied initial en banc review by an 8-8 vote.   Two days later, on December 17, a Sixth Circuit panel dissolved the stay issued by the Fifth Circuit in a 2-to-1 ruling, allowing the ETS to go into effect. Fourteen different applications for a stay have already been filed in the U.S. Supreme Court. The schedule for the merits briefing is as follows:
    • January 31, 2022: DOJ’s opening brief
    • March 2, 2022: State’s response due
    • March 23, 2022: DOJ’s reply due
  • To account for the litigation uncertainty, OSHA issued an enforcement policy stating that it “is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates of the ETS.”  It will not issue any citations before January 10 and will not enforce the vaccine or testing requirement until February 9 “so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.”

Federal Contractor Mandate

  • The Bottom Line: The federal contractor mandate has been enjoined nationwide. The government has not asked the Supreme Court for relief from that injunction despite the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit having denied a stay on December 17.
  • On December 28, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied the States’ motion for initial hearing en banc of the merits phase of the Government’s appeal of the nationwide PI of the federal contractor mandate. The schedule for the merits briefings of the DOJ’s appeal of the nationwide preliminary injunction is as follows:
    • January 12, 2022: DOJ’s opening brief is due
    • February 8, 2022: States’ and the Associated Builders and Contractor’s response briefs are due
    • February 22, 2022: The DOJ’s reply brief is due
    • Oral argument on the merits of the federal contractor mandate is tentatively scheduled for the week of April 4, 2022.  
  • The Government also has not filed an application for a stay of the preliminary injunctions issued from either the Eastern District of Kentucky, Western District of Louisiana, Eastern District of Missouri, or the Middle District of Florida. This is likely because the Government is awaiting the outcome of the ETS and CMS cases before the Supreme Court.
  • In the District of Arizona, the law enforcement and firefighters’ union local (plaintiff) filed its reply brief and the court ordered the unmasking of a John Doe plaintiff. On January 4, the DOJ filed its motion to dismiss the case.
  • On December 12, a new suit was filed in the Northern District of Texas by the Associated General Contractors and TEXO, the Construction Association. The plaintiffs also filed a preliminary injunction motion on December 14, seeking a nationwide injunction. The Government argued that there is no urgency to decide the preliminary injunction motion in light of the current nationwide stay of the federal contractor mandate.

CMS Rule

  • The BottomLine: The CMS rule has been enjoined in some jurisdictions.
  • On December 22, the U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments on whether the OSHA ETS and CMS regulations should be stayed pending further consideration of the merits of their challenges to occur on Friday, January 7. The Court order does not include an administrative stay.
  • A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit by a 2-1 vote denied DOJ’s motion for a stay pending appeal, thereby leaving in place the preliminary injunction that covers AR; AK; IA; KS, ND; NE; NH; MO; SD; and WY. 
  • In a per curiam opinion, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit panel upheld the stay in light of the court’s recent opinion regarding the OSHA ETS stay. However, the panel modified the Western District of Louisiana’s nationwide preliminary injunction so that it now only applies to the thirteen plaintiff states.
  • The North District of Texas had stayed proceedings pending the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s consideration of the Western District of Louisiana’s preliminary injunction. After the Fifth Circuit ruled, Judge Kacsmaryk held an emergency telephone conference and then issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the CMS mandate within Texas.

As these cases continue to make their way through the courts, the Chamber will continue to update this posting. Detailed information on the OSHA ETS can be found here.

Above information is taken from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Additional Steps to Help Stop the Spread

To keep our economy running, there are a few things you can do to help curb the spread and mitigate impacts to our economy:

1. Resume mask-wearing in indoor settings. Public health experts urge everyone to upgrade from cloth masks to surgical masks and claim Kn95 and N95 masks are superior at filtering out Omicron.

2. Encourage vaccinations and boosters. Science shows that while more breakthrough cases are occurring with Omicron, the vaccines are still excellent at preventing severe illness and death. If you have not already, get vaccinated and if you’re eligible do not delay getting a booster. As business leaders, we encourage you to also work with your staff to ensure they are vaccinated and boosted. Find vaccine and booster shots. 

3. Get tested if you have symptoms or a known exposure. While demand for tests has escalated, many sites still have same day appointments or no appointment requirements. The CDC recommends testing 3-5 days after an exposure or at the onset of symptoms. Find testing sites in Louisville here.

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