Federal court temporarily halts Biden’s vaccine mandate

Citing "grave" constitutional issues, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily halted Biden's private sector vaccine mandate.

President Joe Biden looks at a stack of papers in the Oval Office. (White House/Flickr)

(The Center Square) — The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Saturday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate on private sector businesses with 100 employers or more, citing “grave” constitutional issues.

Ruling on lawsuits filed by Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as a Louisiana businessman seeking to prevent the mandate from taking effect, the appeals court issued a stay over constitutional questions.

“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby stayed pending further action by the court,” the ruling reads.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week released details of the vaccine mandate, which until Saturday’s ruling required private employers with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccinations or weekly testing. The mandate, which could affect an estimated 100 million American workers, includes a Jan. 4 deadline for vaccination.

The policy also imposes nearly $14,000 in fines per employee if businesses are caught letting their workers skirt the mandate. “Willful violations” could result in fines up to $136,000.

Republican-led states filed multiple lawsuits on Friday challenging the mandate’s legality. Louisiana businessman Brandon Trosclair, with assistance from the Liberty Justice Center, a public interest law firm, and the New Orleans-based Pelican Institute for Public Policy, also filed suit.

Trosclair employs nearly 500 people across 15 grocery stores in Louisiana and Mississippi. Under the mandate, he would be forced to fire unvaccinated workers who do not comply with the strict federal rules.

“This is an incredible first victory for all Americans that the Fifth Circuit so quickly realized that the Biden employer vaccine mandate would cause great harm to businesses like mine,” Trosclair said in a statement provided by Liberty Justice Center and the Pelican Institute. “As the legal process continues, I look forward to sharing more of my story. This stay is a great first step by the court.”

Other lawsuits are pending.

An 11-state coalition consisting of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming filed a lawsuit Friday in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals against OSHA.

A similar lawsuit was filed in the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by the attorneys general of Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Ohio, Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Georgia, Florida, and Alabama have also filed a lawsuit in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing the new rule exceeds the Department of Labor’s “statutory authority, fails to comply with the standards for issuing an [Emergency Temporary Standard], and conflicts with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The Fifth Circuit in New Orleans was the first to issue a ruling.

“I am confident that the courts will see this mandate for what it truly is: an attempt to make laws while bypassing Congress,” Sarah Harbison, general counsel at the Pelican Institute, said in a statement.