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Biden administration's OSHA suspends enforcement of vaccine mandate

Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has suspended the implementation and enforcement of President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for private employers, following a federal court order to do so.

The agency announced Wednesday that it will comply with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit order to "take no steps to implement or enforce" the vaccine mandate "until further court order."

"While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation," the agency said.

The announcement comes after a Nov. 12 ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals staying implementation and enforcement of Biden's vaccine mandate until there is a final ruling on its legality.

The mandate, known as the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard, requires employers that have 100 or more employees to have each of their workers vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested regularly for the virus. Employers that do not comply could face nearly $14,000 in penalties per violation.

The standards were intended to take effect on Jan. 4, but a flurry of legal challenges questioning the constitutionality of OSHA's mandate put a temporary halt to its enforcement. At least 27 states have challenged the vaccine mandate in courts, as well as other groups, calling Biden's order a gross example of federal overreach.

A federal judiciary panel on Wednesday randomly selected the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court in Cincinnati to take up the more than 30 cases filed against Biden's vaccine mandate, Fox News reported.

The Department of Justice has pledged to "vigorously defend" the OSHA mandate in court.

"This decision is just the beginning of the process for review of this important OSHA standard," an agency spokesperson told Fox News. "The Department will continue to vigorously defend the standard and looks forward to obtaining a definitive resolution following consolidation of all of the pending cases for further review."

In his decision to block OSHA's standard, Fifth Circuit Judge Kurt Engelhardt said a stay was in the public's best interest because of concerns over the sweeping impact the vaccine mandate could have on the economy.

"The public interest is also served by maintaining our constitutional structure and maintaining the liberty of individuals to make intensely personal decisions according to their own convictions - even, or perhaps particularly, when those decisions frustrate government officials," Engelhardt wrote.

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