What Will Happen to Biden's Vaccine Mandate for Large Businesses?

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Nov. 8 2021, Published 10:30 a.m. ET

In September, President Biden pushed an order through mandating large business employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Now, a federal appeals court has halted his efforts.

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What's next for businesses with 100 or more employees? WBiden's initial vaccine mandate hold water in the U.S. court system?

Biden's vaccine mandate for large businesses halts under federal appeals court

On Nov. 5, a federal appeals court imposed a temporary halt on Biden's previous vaccine mandate for employees of large businesses (defined as employing 100+ people).

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The halt took place at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, La. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) initially imposed the order under the Biden administration with a deadline of January 4, 2022, and an alternative of face mask requirements and weekly COVID-19 testing.

Louisiana Attorney General and Republican Jeff Landry called the order an "unlawful overreach." Landry's home state is just one of 27 states that filed lawsuits in opposition to the mandate.

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According to the appeals court, "The petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate."

Biden is confident in his vaccine mandate's legality

If the vaccine requirement for large businesses goes into effect as initially planned, businesses will be fined about $14,000 per violation. Biden expects the plan to go through. He said that federal safety rules for workplaces under OSHA trump those at the state level.

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Despite his confidence, Biden will face an uphill battle for his vaccine requirement since it impacts non-governmental employees in the private sector.

What's next for the large business vaccine mandate?

The Biden administration must respond to the two-page directive by 5:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 8. The statements from petitioners will come forward on Nov. 16.

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After that, the court will determine whether or not to lift the temporary ban or grant a permanent injunction. If the latter occurs, OSHA has the right to take the case to the Supreme Court.

What's the most likely outcome?

Last week, the White House published a press release stating, "Both OSHA and CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] are making clear that their new rules preempt any inconsistent state or local laws, including laws that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, masks, or testing."

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The reality is that the Supreme Court currently has eight justices, many of whom are affiliated with a political party one way or the other. Five of the current judges were appointed by Republicans. Currently, the petitions against the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private sector employees stems largely from the Republican side.

Still, the legalities could be enough for the Biden administration to succeed in the Supreme Court—that is, if the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans imposes a permanent injunction at all. Without it, the vaccine mandate will surely face backlash from other states, meaning the journey will be bumpy regardless.

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