Vaccine Mandate for Federal Employees Blocked Again


Biden Speaks About Vaccines | Image by jim Watson/Getty Images

The Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees has again been blocked in court.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that it will throw out its previous decision allowing the mandate to stand and rehear the case.

In April, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court ruled 2-1 that the mandate could stand; a district court judge had previously blocked it in January in siding with pro-vaccine choice organizations and federal employees who brought a lawsuit against the requirement.

However, the Biden administration had not reimposed the mandate after the April ruling, citing the ongoing litigation.

On Monday, the court accepted a request from challengers of the mandate to rehear the case “en banc.” That means all the judges on the appeals court will issue a judgment rather than a three-judge panel as it did in January.

Because the case is being re-heard, the court threw out its ruling from April, which means the district judge’s ruling from January that blocked the mandate is now in effect.

The 5th Circuit set the rehearing of the case for the week of September 12, meaning the mandate will remain blocked at least until then.

President Joe Biden issued the executive order that catalyzed these hearings on September 9, 2021, requiring that all federal workers be vaccinated by November 22.

The administration said federal workers who failed to comply with the mandate would face “disciplinary” consequences.

“If a federal worker fails to comply, they will go through the standard [human resources] process, which includes counseling and face disciplinary action, face progressive disciplinary action,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at the time.

The mandate would cover more than 3.5 million federal employees. In December, before the district court first struck down the mandate, the White House said that 92.5% of the employees had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Additionally, 4.7% had either been granted an exemption or extension or applied for one.

The mandate was one of several imposed by the Biden administration in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. The administration also ordered vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, large private employers, and federal contractors.

The mandates were immediately criticized and challenged in court.

The U.S. Supreme Court allowed the mandate for employees of healthcare facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid programs to stand but struck down the large employer mandate.

The court ruled that the administration exceeded its authority by imposing the order on private employers.

A district judge struck down the vaccine requirement for federal contractors in December, but an appeals court is currently litigating that case.

With Monday’s ruling, only the mandate for healthcare workers remains in effect.

Feds for Medical Freedom, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, first challenged Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal employees in a district court in Texas in December 2021, alleging that the president had exceeded his authority.

Federal Judge Jeffrey Brown sided with the plaintiffs and issued the injunction order in January to block the vaccine mandate for federal workers.

“So is submitting to a COVID-19 vaccine, particularly when required as a condition of one’s employment, workplace conduct? The answer to this question became a lot clearer after the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this month,” Judge Brown said, referring to the Supreme Court’s ruling in early January that Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses exceeded the president’s authority.

Lawyers for the government argued that federal law empowered the president to “prescribe regulations for the conduct of employees in the executive branch” and that the act of becoming vaccinated is “plainly conduct.”

Other organizations representing federal workers challenged the mandate in court, including the 700,000-member American Federation of Government Employees, the largest union representing federal workers.

“The main thrust of the argument is that the president doesn’t have the authority to issue an order like this, pursuant to the powers granted him in Article Two of the United States Constitution, and that’s the same argument that won the day in the Supreme Court regarding the 100 or more employees; the president doesn’t have that authority,” attorney Bruce Castor Jr. of the law firm Van Der Veen, Hartshorn & Levin, who represented the union, told The Epoch Times in February.

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