Biden administration moves ahead with employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate, as states appeal to the Supreme Court
OSHA will hold off on issuing citations for noncompliance until Feb. 9
The Biden administration on Saturday said it will permit slight delays in the implementation of an emergency temporary standard (ETS) that will place coronavirus vaccine and testing mandates on 84 million American workers.
The ETS, first issued last month, requires all companies with 100 employees or more to enforce vaccine requirements to stop the spread of the coronavirus. If employees refuse to get the shots in their arms then they must comply with regular testing requirements issued by their companies or face termination.
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The controversial mandate issued by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was stalled in early November by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
But on Friday, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay.
A Labor Department spokesperson told Fox News on Saturday it was "gratified" by the court's decision to dissolve the blockade.
"OSHA can now once again implement this vital workplace health standard, which will protect the health of workers by mitigating the spread of the unprecedented virus in the workplace," the spokesperson said. Adding that the department will exercise "enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates" of the mandate.
"To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10," the spokesperson continued.
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OSHA will also hold off on issuing citations for "noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before Feb. 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard."
"OSHA will work closely with the regulated community to provide compliance assistance," the spokesperson added.
Businesses could face repercussions if they fail to enforce the mandates and could see fines as high as $14,000 per violation.
The initial order would have required all companies to implement a vaccine mandate by Jan. 4, 2022.
The federal vaccine mandate received immediate backlash from Republicans on the Hill and a slurry of more than two dozen lawsuits in courts around the country attempting to block the order.
GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate have taken steps to override the presidential executive order, citing concerns of overreach and potential harm to the U.S. labor force.
Critics of the mandate have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and at least three petitions were filed to the high court just hours after the stay was lifted Friday, as first reported by Reuters.
The Supreme Court earlier this week refused to block a New York regulation mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for health care workers – a move that could spell trouble for those opposed to the sweeping mandate.
The White House applauded the move Friday saying, "We welcome the Sixth Circuit’s decision."
"The OSHA vaccination or testing rule will ensure businesses enact measures that will protect their employees," the White House said in a statement. "Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it’s critical we move forward with vaccination requirements and protections for workers with the urgency needed in this moment."
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The U.S. could see another spike in coronavirus cases as the omicron continues to spread nationwide.
There have been more than 50 million reported coronavirus cases since the outbreak of the pandemic and over 800,000 deaths from the deadly virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Jon Brown contributed to this report.