As discussed in our previous post, multiple federal courts have issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors. On January 27, 2022, the United States District Court of Arizona issued a new and additional injunction barring enforcement of the mandate within the State of Arizona. In so doing, the Arizona court added to the injunctions previously issued by the U.S. District Courts for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Western District of Louisiana, Eastern District of Missouri, Middle District of Florida, and Southern District of Georgia.
The Georgia injunction is the only one of the rulings that applies nationwide. Like the Arizona injunction, the Missouri, Florida, and Kentucky injunctions are limited to specific states (collectively, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Florida). The Louisiana injunction is also limited, but its limitations are based on entities rather than geography; it applies to contracts and other agreements between the federal government and the governments of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Indiana. The Biden Administration has appealed these earlier decisions; we expect that an appeal of the Arizona decision to the Ninth Circuit will likewise be forthcoming.
At the same time, the Biden Administration’s other primary COVID-19 initiative for large employers — the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (the so-called “OSHA Mandate”) — was stayed by the United States Supreme Court on January 13, 2022. In the wake of that decision, OSHA announced on January 25, 2022 that it is withdrawing the enforceable emergency temporary standard.
While the Supreme Court’s decision halted immediate application of the OSHA Mandate, the emergency temporary standard qualifies as a proposed rule for purposes of OSHA’s notice-and-comment rulemaking process under 29 U.S.C. § 655, and OSHA has announced that it will continue to consider the emergency temporary standard pursuant to that process. Accordingly, OSHA could attempt to promulgate a final rule (as opposed to an emergency temporary standard) that addresses vaccines or testing requirements.
The rest of this post consists of (1) an overview of the Arizona decision regarding the federal contractor vaccine mandate; and (2) an update on the status of the other challenges to the federal contractor vaccine mandate, including the Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Florida, and Georgia litigations.