Washington: A US federal appeals court has ruled to reinstate President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for large private sector companies.
Friday’s ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, Ohio, lifted a November injunction that had temporarily suspended the rule from the Labour Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which requires companies with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their workforce or make them subject to weekly testing and compulsory masking, reports Xinhua news agency.
The decision was made after a 2-1 vote on the court’s three-judge panel, with an opinion written by Judge Jane Stranch saying that OSHA is authorised by Congress “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for the nation’s work force and to preserve the nation’s human resources”.
“The record establishes that Covid-19 has continued to spread, mutate, kill and block the safe return of American workers to their jobs. To protect workers, OSHA can and must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve,” she said.
The ruling came as the Biden administration last month stopped the implementation of the mandate, which would otherwise take effect on January 4, 2022 and affect some 80 million people, to comply with a decision by the Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The 5th Circuit’s ruling argued that OSHA exceeded its authority to regulate employers’ conduct, a claim shared by the dissenting judge in the 6th Circuit’s ruling.
While handing the Biden administration a temporary victory, the 6th Circuit’s ruling could be appealed to the Supreme Court, which is likely to have the final say over the controversial issue.
Separately, the Biden administration on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to allow the full enforcement of a nationwide requirement that health-care workers be vaccinated if they work at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid.
The policy was suspended by lower courts amid opposition from two dozen states.
The increasingly heated legal fight over vaccine mandates came against the backdrop of the death toll surpassing 800,000, yet another grim milestone.