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Challenges to President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private employers will be consolidated in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Cincinnati-based court was selected Nov. 16 in a random drawing using ping-pong balls, a process employed when challenges to certain federal agency actions are filed in multiple courts.
The selection of the 6th Circuit, a panel dominated by judges appointed by Republicans, could be welcome news for officials in 27 Republican-led states that are challenging the administration’s vaccine requirement. They argue the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have the authority to impose the mandate.
In addition, employers and several conservative and business organizations also sued to block the mandate in court. There also were challenges from unions that said the vaccine mandate didn’t go far enough. In all, suits were filed this month in 12 circuit courts.
Under an arcane system, it was up to the clerk of the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict litigation to select a ping-pong ball from a bin to choose where the cases would be heard.
The employer vaccine mandate calls for businesses with more than 100 workers to require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or wear masks and be tested weekly for COVID-19. Exemptions are provided for religious reasons and for those who work at home or only outdoors.
American Trucking Associations, along with three state trucking associations and a number of groups representing various facets of the supply chain, are among those who sued.
Because it’s an unusual rule from the workplace safety agency, there is no consensus among lawyers on how the challenges will go. OSHA has issued just 10 emergency rules in the half century since it was formed. Of the six challenged in court, only one survived intact.
The Biden administration has insisted it’s on strong legal footing. It also has the backing of the American Medical Association, which filed papers in support of the mandate.
“The AMA’s extensive review of the medical literature demonstrates that COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved by FDA are safe and effective, and the widespread use of those vaccines is the best way to keep COVID-19 from spreading within workplaces,” the group said in its filing.
ATA has maintained that the mandate could have negative consequences for an already overstressed supply chain.
“This standard arbitrarily picks winners and losers, and puts employers in an untenable position of forcing workers to choose between working and their private medical decisions, which is something that cannot be allowed,” ATA president Chris Spear has said.
Another group challenging the rule is a consortium of construction contractors. They say they want their workers vaccinated, but that a requirement only on larger companies is just pushing vaccine-hesitant workers to take jobs with companies that have fewer than 100 employees.
For Veterans Day, host and Navy veteran Michael Freeze sits down with Army veterans James Rogers, owner of Spartan Direct Trucking Co. and 2020 Transport Topics Trucking's Frontline Hero, and John Baxter, equipment columnist. Hear a snippet above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
“Crafting an unworkable rule that will do little to get construction workers vaccinated is an approach that is not only wrong, but likely counterproductive,” said Scott Casabona, president of Signatory Wall and Ceiling Contractors Alliance.
Officials with the workplace safety agency say they’re considering extending the mandate to smaller employers.
A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit extended the stay of the OSHA rule in an opinion released Nov. 12, expressing skepticism that the agency had authority to implement the vaccine requirement. The 6th Circuit could modify, revoke or extend the stay.
It had not yet been determined which judges from the 6th Circuit will be on a three-judge panel to hear the case or whether it will be considered by all the judges.
Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Associated Press writer Mark Sherman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.
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