Last week, a federal district court judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction blocking implementation of the White House’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for federal employees. The judge relied on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) to conclude that the president does not have the authority to require federal employees to undergo a “medical procedure.”
The federal government immediately filed a notice of appeal of the decision and appears to have significant arguments for defending the measure. The Supreme Court’s opinion on the OSHA regulations relied in large part on the lack of authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for the agency to regulate hazards that appear to present no particularly elevated risk in the workplace. In this case, the federal government has long regulated the behavior of its employees outside of work. For example, the district court’s reasoning could be used to argue against the legality of drug testing of federal employees.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and maybe the Supreme Court will have the last word on the legality of one of the final remaining federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.