Private businesses with 100 or more employees will soon be required to determine the COVID-19 vaccination status of employees and implement vaccine-or-test rules in workplaces now that a federal appeals court has lifted an earlier stay that had been blocking the mandate.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ unexpected 2-1 ruling Friday evening, which has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court already, dissolved an earlier stay preventing the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rule from taking effect. OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) issued Nov. 6 requires affected businesses to ensure employees are vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing and wear masks in the workplace.
The original OSHA rule had set compliance deadlines of Dec. 6 for determining vaccination status and requiring unvaccinated workers to wear masks, and Jan. 4 for the weekly testing of unvaccinated workers. However, OSHA issued a statement on Saturday saying that because of the confusion created by the ongoing litigation it would “exercise enforcement discretion.”
“To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before Jan. 10 and will not issue 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 said.
The OSHA directive covers an estimated 84 million private sector workers, but the legal battle is not over. Within hours of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court ruling, a coalition of states and trade groups filed emergency applications directed to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who oversees the 6th Circuit, requesting another stay pending a review of the case by the nation’s highest court.
Two other separate vaccine mandates issued by the Biden administration that affect healthcare workers and federal contractors remain enjoined by the courts.