By Zachary Stieber
President Joe Biden’s administration was directed on Monday to reply to a flurry of fresh challenges to its private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump nominee, told administration officials to file responses to applications from faith groups, companies, and attorneys general from over half the states in the country by 4 p.m. on Dec. 30.
That’s just days before the mandate’s deadline.
“This case is finally where it belongs: the Supreme Court. OSHA has threatened to start punishing employers like our clients starting on January 10, and we’re grateful the court has ordered a briefing schedule that will allow for resolution of our petition before that deadline,” Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, told The Epoch Times in an email.
“We’re very pleased with Justice Kavanaugh’s quick response and are confident that the court will act quickly to ensure legal predictability before the deadline,” John Bursch, a lawyer for Alliance Defending Freedom, added.
Kavanaugh is dealing with the matter because the appeals court that issued the ruling that prompted the challenges is under his jurisdiction.
The mandate in question was promulgated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If allowed to take effect next month, it will force every business with 100 or more employees to get proof of a negative COVID-19 test on at least a weekly basis or proof of vaccination from each worker. Companies that don’t comply would face escalating fines.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in November entered a preliminary injunction against the mandate, questioning its constitutionality. But the case was redirected by lottery to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which on Friday dissolved the stay.
OSHA said it was “gratified” by the ruling and would begin imposing the mandate on Jan. 10, 2022. The official deadline, though, is Jan. 4.
The rule could be paused anew by the Supreme Court, which quickly received appeals from the Word of God Fellowship, The Heritage Foundation, Ohio’s attorney general, BST Holdings, and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Absent a new stay, parties would be irreparably harmed, they argued in the filings.
Institutions fear losing workers who don’t want to get a vaccine and also don’t want to get tested regularly, possibly at their own cost.
“South Dakota and Florida public schools are not subject to the mandate and could attract teachers away from religious private schools,” lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom wrote in one of the documents.
Challengers say the administration is violating the state authority outlined in the U.S. Constitution and going beyond the powers Congress gave OSHA to regulate businesses.
OSHA says the mandate “will protect the health of workers by mitigating the spread of the unprecedented virus in the workplace.”