The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it will not move forward with a controversial COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate for large employers.
OSHA issued a statement indicating that it will comply with an order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on November 12 requiring that the agency “take no steps to implement or enforce” the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard until further court order.
“While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation,” the agency said.
At the behest of the Biden Administration earlier this month, OSHA issued an Interim Final Rule requiring private sector employers with 100 or more employees to require workers to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or submit to weekly testing, effective January 4, 2022. Unvaccinated workers would also be required to wear face masks starting December 5. Companies that did not comply could be issued thousands of dollars in fines, according to the rule.
The legal battle will now move to the 6th Circuit Appeals Court in Cincinnati, where the dozens of lawsuits filed against the OSHA vaccine mandate will be consolidated into a single case and tried before a three-judge panel.
The vaccine requirement drew immediate ire from members of the trucking industry, who argued that it could lead to increased disruptions to the nation’s already struggling supply chain.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) has argued that truckers would not be required to comply with the vaccine mandate due to exemptions in the rule for employees who exclusively work outdoors or remotely and have minimal contact with others indoors.
U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh appeared to support the ATA’s conclusion, stating, “If you’re a truck driver and you’re outside, you’re in a cab driving by yourself, this doesn’t impact you. If you’re a worker outside working in the area, this doesn’t impact you.”