On December 7, 2021, a federal court in Georgia issued a nationwide injunction prohibiting the federal government from enforcing Executive Order 14042 – the vaccine mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors. The federal contractor mandate applies to roughly one-quarter of the U.S. workforce and affects companies that do business with the federal government.

The States of Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia, various state agencies and certain other employers brought the action alleging that President Biden’s Executive Order exceeded his authority and requesting a preliminary injunction.

Judge R. Stan Baker agreed, stating that he was “unconvinced” that the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act authorized President Biden to direct the type of broad and unprecedented administrative actions contained in Executive Order 14042, adding that such action likely requires Congressional authorization. The court found that the plaintiffs had a likelihood of proving that Executive Order 14042 went beyond mere administration and management of procurement and contracting, and did not fall within the authority actually granted to the President by Congress. Instead, the Court reasoned, Executive Order 14042 works as a “regulation of public health. Judge Baker also rejected the government’s argument that enjoining Executive Order 14042 would permit the continued spread of COVID-19, finding that it would merely maintain the status quo.

With this latest judicial action, courts have now halted, at least temporarily, all three of President Biden’s signature COVID-19 vaccination mandate efforts. Earlier, in a strongly worded opinion issued on November 12, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a nationwide injunction halting enforcement of OSHA’s COVID-19 emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring vaccination or testing. Subsequently, the Sixth Circuit was selected via a lottery to hear the consolidated challenges to the OSHA ETS, which we previously covered here. Additionally, on November 30, 2021, a federal court in Louisiana issued a nationwide injunction halting enforcement of a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on certain health care facilities as a condition of participation in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

If you have questions regarding developments on these challenges to federal COVID-19 vaccine requirements, or implementing such requirements in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact the Reed Smith lawyer with whom you normally work.