On December 7, 2021, a federal court in Georgia issued a temporary nationwide injunction against the enforcement of the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. This follows developments last week, when a different federal court issued a similar ban but limited it to only three states. Also, a third federal court has issued an injunction against enforcement of the CMS Interim Final Rule requiring vaccination for healthcare workers regulated by Medicare and Medicaid.
As you may recall, President Biden issued Executive Order 14042 on September 9, 2021. This mandated that federal contractors and subcontractors comply with rules to be later issued by the Safer Federal Workers Taskforce relative to COVID-19 vaccination. On September 24, 2021, the Taskforce issued guidance directing that these entities require vaccination of all employees by December 8, 2021 (and later extended to January 18, 2022) unless said employees were legally entitled to accommodations. Numerous lawsuits were later filed against this mandate.
In reaching its decision to block the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, the Georgia court asserted that President Biden exceeded his authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act. It further noted that forcing employers to expend administrative time and costs to comply with the requirements of the Taskforce’s guidance (which it believed is likely to be ultimately overturned) would impose an “extreme economic burden.” Lastly, it concluded that only a nationwide ban against the mandate would effectively provide the necessary relief to federal contractors and subcontractors.
This decision follows a prior decision issued on November 30, 2021 by a federal district court in Kentucky, which blocked a requirement that federal contracts include clauses requiring the vaccination of contractor employees. That ruling, however, was localized to only three states at issue in that case (Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee). As such, the new Georgia decision is significantly more expansive in scope.
Separately, a federal court in Louisiana has also issued a temporary injunction against the enforcement of the CMS Emergency Interim Final Rule requiring vaccination. That Rule was issued on November 5, 2021, and required healthcare employers governed by CMS regulations to require vaccination of their employees (with exceptions for those with certain medical conditions or sincerely held religious beliefs opposed to vaccination). The order of the Louisiana court was also effectively a nationwide order, as it blocked enforcement of the regulations in all states except for ten states where it had already been blocked by a prior order.
As such, at present the enforcement of both mandates has been blocked barring further legal developments. Employers should be mindful, however, that these mandates are still moving through the court system and it is still unclear where the ultimate determination of their enforceability will end. It is recommended that employers continue to prepare in the event that the mandates are ultimately upheld as effective, at least for the time being.
If you have any questions regarding the vaccine mandate for federal contractors, the CMS Emergency Interim Final Rule, or any of the recent court decisions, please contact our Employment Law Group at 1-888-488-2638 or email at EmploymentLaw@c-wlaw.com.